My Fictional Romance

I had a fling with a guy this summer. My best friend introduced me to him. We were hot and heavy for about three months. I spent every spare moment with him, even putting up with his family and all their drama just so I could have some alone time with him later. It didn’t bother me that he had taken a vow of chastity or that he, you know, isn’t real. His name is Jon Snow, bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark (or is he?), and he was everything I had ever wanted in a man. Then he did what all my fictional boyfriends (and fictional best friends, mentors, so on) do—he left me.

I have a slight problem with becoming too emotionally invested in stories, whether it be a book series or a television show. This is sort ironic, because I tend to be cold and distant in real life relationships. I could not tell you the last time I cried over a guy, but I was a blubbering mess when Dumbledore met his end. I have read thousands of books and watched thousands of television shows and movies in my lifetime, and there are a handful of characters that I fell completely, stupidly, childishly in love with. I already mentioned Jon Snow and Albus Dumbledore. Some others who stole my heart are:  Harry Dresden, Frodo Baggins, Sam and Dean Winchester, Rick Grimes, Hermione Granger, Eric Northman, Finny from A Separate Peace, Lyra Belacqua, Odd Thomas, Andy Botwin, and Percy Jackson.*

The relationships I have with these characters are unhealthy. Sure, it’s great while it lasts, but it always ends. My love always goes unrequited. Because unrequited love makes for great writing inspiration, even that fact isn’t the main reason these relationships are toxic. The problem with all these relationships is that they are severely out of balance. You can love a fictional character, but he can’t love you back. These relationships are completely void of reciprocity, and they ultimately cannot fulfill any of your needs other than your need to love someone.

Wait a second. Shouldn’t the problem be that none of these people are real?

These characters are, in fact, real. They exist within the fictional world, and, let’s face it; most writers at least have a summer home there, and some of us make the daily commute. The natives of this land I’ve aptly named “The Imagined-Nation” are all the people we wish we could meet in real life. We know these people better than we know our friends because we can see inside their heads. We really know them—what kind of people they are, what they fear, what motivates them, what they will do when their backs are against the wall. They are what is absent in the real world. They are honor and nobility, courage and integrity, kindness and loyalty, strength and humility. They have never let us down, unlike so many people in real life. It doesn’t hurt that they also tend to be at least somewhat attractive, but usually have some sort of endearing flaw, like a scar, that reminds us that nobody is perfect. The real world contains so few good-looking people who also have values that it is not surprising that fictional characters can be so appealing.

These relationships are not completely negative, though. We can learn things from these characters. They teach us how to be brave, how to overcome adversity, and how to do the right thing even when it is the hardest thing. They set an example of selflessness, protecting the weak and fighting for the oppressed. Their lives are full of adventure, danger, and romance–all the things we wish we had more of in our lives. Could it be possible what I feel for these characters is not love, but, in fact, envy?

It is both. I love these characters, but I must be careful not to step over into obsession. As long as I keep fiction separate from real life, why not enjoy a tryst with one of my favorite made-up people every once in a while? The Imagined-Nation is a place nice to visit, but you can’t live there forever. I will always love you, Jon Snow, but it is time to break up. I hope we can still be friends. I will keep on watching Game of Thrones and reading A Song of Ice and Fire, but this time I will keep the heartbreak at bay by not letting myself develop feelings that you can never return. But, if you ever break your vows again, I swear I will…oops. This might be harder than I thought.

*When I say I fell in love with these characters, I do not necessarily mean romantic love. I am not a lesbian, not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Disarming the Bomb – The Courage in Hitting Publish

Sometimes when I watch the flicker of the cursor on a blank page, I cannot help but hear the time ticking away to its rhythm, tick-tock, tick-tock. I created this blog three days ago, but I have been impotent in all my attempts at a first post. I spent hours deciding which hosting site to use, trying out different themes, and googling blogging tips–otherwise known as procrastinating.  Yet, when it came time to write, which is what I love to do, my one true passion, I could not perform. Tick-tock. What happens when the time runs out?

The bomb goes off, of course. The only other possible meaning (in my head) is that the cookies are done, but you are more likely to see an explosion than me baking, so for me, the timer is always a connected to a bomb. Of course, no one gets hurt if I don’t post anything. In fact, no one is really affected but me. Besides, the bomb has a failsafe. I can stop the cursor and pause the timer, simply by shutting my laptop and ending my writing session. No harm done. No chance of being subject to rejection, ridicule, or attacks by the grammar police due to silly typos. No risk taken. Nothing to fear. Now, we have discovered the power source of the bomb and what keeps that cursor ticking — fear.

Fear is the father of all excuses. Fear keeps us stagnant. Fear fosters weakness and murders passion.  Fear will cripple our dreams, and worst of all, fear will make us think it was our idea.  So how do we overcome it?  How does one disarm the bomb?

To overcome fear, you must first identify it then acknowledge it. This is really easy for a writer to do. I’m going to do it right here, right now:

I am afraid people won’t like what I write.

Whoa.  Did I really just say that? Did you see what I did there? I identified the specific fear that was keeping me from writing and acknowledged it in less that ten words. Fear of rejection is my greatest fear, but fear of failure or fear of public speaking could be yours. Luckily, all three of these fears have the same weakness, and that weakness is something everyone has in their arsenal:  courage.

All it takes to flush out fear and disarm the bomb is courage. Just typing, “I am afraid,” is easy, the hard part comes when I hit “publish.” Putting myself out there is a risk. There will always be people out there who will not like me, but I hope to find that even some of those who do not like my content or style will appreciate my honesty. It takes courage to be honest, and honesty generates loyalty. Loyalty means more readers. It would easy to pretend to write ironically and that I am above wanting readers. It takes courage to admit that I am writing for a purpose. I am writing because I love it, but also because I would like to one day make money doing what I love.

With two statements, one acknowledging the fear that was getting in the way of my writing and one stating the purpose of my writing, I have disarmed my bomb, and I am almost ready to publish this post. Yet, the cursor is still blinking. I thought the bomb was disarmed? The thing is, I can only temporarily shut it down. Fear will come creeping back, in the form of feedback and comments and new posts, but after I have wrangled it once, I can do it again. And again. And again. For the rest my life, I will battle and dance with fear, until we are more friends than adversaries. One day, the timer really will run out, and I will thank fear for motivating me to have the courage to hit “publish” this first time.