Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writing: New Experiences Create Romance; Routine Kills It

Before Sunset by Psuedosoma
I never believed this type of thinking. Now I know why.
As many of you know, I am working on a book based on blog articles I’ve written on the subject of overcoming suicide. The fourth draft was finished a couple of months ago, but the editor I chose for the project was out on maternity leave. We got together last Saturday and went over her notes and ideas. She liked what she saw, had some creative suggestions, and I am very excited to get busy with draft five. Too bad I have so much boring freelance work to do first.

I’ve been so busy (and depressed) that I wasn’t able to work on this article until now. It isn’t something that comes easy to me because I don’t often write about the process of writing, but there was something about writing I wanted to explore. I find blogs by unpublished authors with tips on the writing process a bit pretentious, and, frankly, a bit dull. Writing about writing is as boring as a two hour lecture on the nature of drawing at eight in the morning. I did that in my college days, and I thought the class was going to kill me. It was ADHD Hell. Yet here I am about to contemplate my writing navel.

It all started with an epiphany. I had just finished yet another K-drama about young, inhumanly beautiful twenty-somethings pretending to be teens and realized that K-dramas were no different than any drama found on the CW. Of course, there are far fewer oiled bodies and torrid love scenes in high school locker rooms, but the gist of it was the same: All romance was based on newness.
The boy exits the bus. A warm breeze ripples his shirt as he suddenly sees his love interest. The same breeze plays with her hair and steals her papers away. The boy rushes to her aid. Their eyes meet. It’s love at first sight, and they just know it will be forever.
A guy sits next to the girl of his dreams, but nothing he can do can get her to see him as anybody other than the cute, childhood friend who helps her with her homework. One day, when a raging stampede of angry buffalo charge through town, the guy uses his secret parkour skills to evade the hairy horde while nimbly scooping up the girl of his dreams and whisking her to safety as extras look on. Now the girl of his dreams sees him in a new light. Love is born, and they just know it will be forever.
In the Korean dramas they don’t kiss quite as quickly as they do in American dramas. The girl will usually hate the boy, mock him with her friends, and date his best friend while he patiently awaits the moment when he can save her from a broken heart, but the process is the same. Time & time again love cannot happen until the fated lovers see each other in a new light. Whether that is from the first moment they meet, remeet after years apart, or suddenly discover they both know the same pretzel vender, love cannot happen until there is a new experience. Otherwise, the relationship is routine.

I was thinking about this because of a story I have been working on here and there. It involves a boy in the seventh grade who doesn’t notice the girl of his dreams, and she dies a little each time they work together. Being friends is better than having no relationship at all, but it isn’t satisfying when the heart yearns for more. How does one move a relationship forward? Newness.

That’s when I realized why my love life was roadkill—run over by tedium and routine. In the first six months of my divorce I wasn’t dating. I was under a self-imposed moratorium to avoid rebounding with my mangled heart. I used to think that it was ironic that all interest in me by members of the opposite sex happened in that first six months. I didn’t realize how much newness factored into attraction at the time. I was the new guy, but since I wasn’t dating they lost interest. Those are opportunities lost unless we meet again under new circumstances. Newness means placing myself in situations outside of the eat-work-sleep cycle I have going on in my lonely apartment. It could also mean a new haircut, new duds, or a new waistline.

Even in the steady rhythm of long term relationships, new experiences add spice when complacency settles in. Weekly dates and couple activities have to happen or the hearts will cease to beat for each other. When love grows old, many people lose interest in their old relationships. They seek the excitement of intense affairs with newness like a searchlight shining into their bitter, black hearts. They’re jerks, but now at least I understand them better. I also understand how to help my characters better, too. I may not use berserker bovines, but the solution is obvious. I simply need to add something new into their lives. Routine kills romance.