Heart of Stone

The lover is a monotheist who knows that other people worship different gods but cannot himself imagine that there could be other gods.  ~Theodor Reik, Of Love and Lust, 1957

No matter the genre, regardless of the machinations of my villains and heroes, despite the elemental or complex themes, I’ve learned that one thing is ever present in my work; love.  That might very well be the reason I see writing as a relationship in and of itself—I cannot conceive of it any other way.

Love. Such a simple thing—the word. Just four little letters, yet wars are fought and waged in honor of it. Lives are lost and gained in its name. It can, given the right circumstances, bring life itself into existence.

I find it no small coincidence that another seemingly slight word, write, has such power. As just a word it means nothing, does nothing, but add those necessary companions; hope, courage, persistence, faith and love, and you will do more than merely put words on paper—you will breathe into existence a world that will feel every bit as real to those who read your work, as it does to you. Because for us, for authors, this is our world. Our ordinary everyday life blends seamlessly into that which we have forged from bits and pieces of our soul.

The question, ‘What are you thinking about?’ never gets fully answered, at least not for the majority of those who ask us. We smile and mention whatever sundry thing is going on at the moment, or we scrounge to come up with the last rational, sane sounding thought we had, and spit it out like we’d been thinking about our taxes the whole time we were staring at the ottoman. But there is always another answer…

Just as one lover is perpetually connected to the other by way of being vested in their life, so are we vested in the worlds we craft. At least, any author worth their salt is. Sure, there are professionals who have a sort of, prostitutional arrangement with their muse; they get what they pay for. They sell out long before their worlds have even had a fraction of a chance to be what they could be, and they make temporal things into gods that will only come to be seen for what they really are too late for anything to be done about it. That isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about making this a priority, regardless of the difficulties.

This career, this calling, isn’t easy. In my personal opinion, it’s one of the toughest—right alongside artists and musicians. Why? Because some of the world considers what we do merely a hobby. Perhaps for some it is, but it isn’t for those of us who wake up in the middle of the night, sweat glued sheets clinging to our bodies as we scramble to find pen and paper in the dark—anything to record the visions that rolled over and wrapped their arms around us, whispered lovingly, seducingly into our ears……and we cannot fathom that there could be any other way of being. Despite this, we still have choices to make. We can settle, make do with seeing those fantastic, living visions that accompany us even in the presence of others, or we can reach out in faith that they will prove tangible. We can shut out all that works against us and covet not things that will pass away, but strive instead for things that will not only bring a lover’s warmth to our hearts, but to the hearts of those who will one day tread in our steps.

Consider this:  On July 8th 1822, a month before his 30th birthday, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned. His body was found ashore some short time later and there he was cremated before a small audience of family and friends (one such Lord Byron was among them). In an astounding twist, Shelley’s heart refused to burn (there were medical reasons for this, but let’s forget about that for now). Legend holds that it was given to his wife, author Mary Shelley, who kept the crumbled remains in her desk.

Love and writing must never be strangers, if they are to be of any relation to one another. If you want your work to endure, to refuse to burn, to be loved by others then you must love it first yourself. You must be willing to sacrifice everything else, to include at times your very soul, if the heart of your work is to be of any worth.

…but cannot imagine himself that there could be other gods…

One response

  1. Oh, this post speaks to me.

    I always write about love. I can’t help it, I’m a fool-boy and a born romantic.

    I’ve always envied the romance novelist. I know they have a certain thrill doing the work despite the formalistic approach of the happily-ever-after ending. Every fiction writer should try to write one romance novel. Just one. What could one novel hurt? Loving writing while writing about love. Almost seems criminal!

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