breaking up is never easy…
About eight months ago, INTERN went through her first big breakup. It was horrific—there were tears, accusations of infidelity, tender afternoons where it seemed like everything was going to be OK followed by screaming sessions on the front lawn. INTERN has been too emotional to talk about it until now.
The breakup wasn’t with Techie Boyfriend, if that’s what you’re worried about. It was with the godawful novel she’d been working on for over a year. In many respects, INTERN’s relationship with this novel was more tumultuous than any of her other relationships have been, and the parting of ways was definitely messier. INTERN just didn’t know how to leave.
Lucky for you, INTERN has had eight months to mull things over. Here, with 20-20 hindsight, are six ways to know it’s time to break up with your novel.
You’ve been cheating.
There’s no use trying to deny it any longer—you’ve been sneaking around with another novel. You know, the one your mind drifts to when you’re supposed to be gazing into your other novel’s eyes. The one you’ve been having thrilling forbidden encounters with in coffee shops and bars and even, once, in your writing room when you were sure your other novel wasn’t home. The one you’re making plans to elope with if you could only find the courage to face the hurt and betrayal in your other novel’s eyes.
But hey, didn’t you read somewhere that people only cheat when their emotional needs aren’t being met by their current relationship? You’re justified in leaving your other novel by, like, the entire field of psychology. So no worries.
You’re in it for the wrong reasons.
You’re only dating your novel to make your best friend jealous. Or because you had something to prove. Or because it was convenient at the time.
But now that you’ve been together for a while, you don’t know how to break this to your novel without sounding like a total jerk. Well guess what? You are a jerk. And you ought to do some serious soul-searching before you start dating another novel—if another novel will even give you a chance after word gets out about what happened with the first one. Didn’t your grandma tell you you should only date someone you could see yourself marrying? Next time, don’t take up with a novel lightly.
You’re just too different.
You’re a literary fiction buff whose tastes run to Cormac McCarthy and Michael Ondaatje. For some inane reason, you thought it would be “fun” to have a crazy fling with a YA fantasy. “It’s only for the summer,” you told yourself.
Fast forward six months and you and that YA fantasy are living together in a shitty studio apartment arguing over who does the dishes. Your crazy fling has turned into a ball and chain. “Why did I ever think this would work out?” you ask your best friend, and she just rolls her eyes.
The spark is gone.
Sure, most relationships take work once the initial rush has worn off. But it’s not just that your heart’s stopped fluttering when your novel walks into the room—you’ve been actively avoiding spending time with her. Let’s face it: those late nights at the office aren’t due to a sudden desire to be Employee of the Month. And don’t give me that “I have a headache” excuse either. The truth is, you’re not attracted to your novel anymore. In fact, you get as much stimulation from working on your novel as you do from mopping the floor. Don’t lie—you’ve been fantasizing about other novels. It’s written all over your face.
You just can’t make it work.
You’ve tried date night, self-help books, and even couples therapy. But the same issues keep coming up again and again. Your novel always wants to talk about feelings, and you’re craving action. No matter how hard you try to like them, you find your novel’s friends shrill and annoying. And no matter how many times you promise yourself not to get caught in the same old patterns, you find yourself having the same arguments over and over.
After a certain point, you realize that no amount of outside help or advice will save your novel. You have to face the facts: this is a sinking ship, and it’s time to stop bailing and swim to shore while you still can.
Your novel wants commitment and you want to play the field.
You’ve been though one draft together. It was fun and all, but now you’re thinking you want to write a thriller, or maybe some poetry, or that screenplay you’ve been thinking about. Your novel, on the other hand, wants to settle down and make beautiful revisions together. Maybe even find an agent.
This freaks you the fuck out. You’re not ready to commit to untold months of revising, querying, and revising some more. You like your novel, sure, but that doesn’t mean you want to spend your whole life together. You’re only 25 (or 32, or 47) for crying out loud. This is your time to play the field. You’ll settle down later.
INTERN’s breakup has a happy ending. She ran off with the novel she really wanted to write, leaving the mistake novel behind. Will they get back together someday? It’s possible. But hopefully by that time they’ll have both grown up a little and learned something from their mistakes.
Before INTERN signs off, she’ll leave you with one last piece of (extremely hard-won) advice: whatever you do, DO NOT break up with your novel over the phone. ‘Cause no matter how mad you are, that’s just cold.
Have you ever broken up with a novel? Was it amiable, or did things get messy? Were you able to walk away, or did you keep running back? Did friends and family intervene? INTERN wants to know!