About a week or so ago I announced that I believed I was done with the rough draft of Prelude to Forever, the story of how Rachel and John met and fell in love before A Symphony of Cicadas. Having planned on this book being a novelette, I was satisfied with the shorter length, and the place I would leave off at. I hand-wrote the whole rough draft of the book, and have been spending the time since that announcement retyping everything I wrote. It’s been an arduous process, though somewhat satisfying as I am able to edit as I go, creating a much cleaner version of what I’ve been writing. And the story is evolving slightly, adding a few interesting layers to characters and their situations.
Of course, a few details I’d planned have changed too. In doing so, I have opened the door to continuing the story beyond what I have already written – meaning this might be more of a full-length novel than a novelette. The original story was just going to focus on John and Rachel’s romance. But now I am expanding to what it’s like to blend a family – all the messy and awkward parts of it.
Thing is, this is a scary thing to write about, mostly because it hits so close to home. When I had first planned on writing this story, the family blending was the biggest reason why. But slowly I started to phase that part out. I see now it’s because writing about it would make me have to face things in my own home that were uncomfortable or unpleasant.
I see step-families all around me, and some of them act as if blending their family was the most natural thing in the world. The others act as if their stepchildren were spawn of the devil. Our family is somewhere in the middle, where things are neither terrible or all that great. There are some days where it feels like our family is just cruising along, and everything is going like clockwork. And there are other days when we’ve never felt more disjointed. Both my husband and I have a mental list going on how much better the other person’s child would have been if we’d raised them with our opposite ideals. Our children have a mental list of why their stepparent is weird and unapproachable. And the list of inequities on all sides is a mile long.
And then there are the little surprises, like the other day when my teenage stepson greeted me with a heartfelt hug when I came home from work – the second or third hug we’ve shared in the six-and-a-half years we’ve known each other…and it made me so happy I did all his chores for him.
Today I was listening to a podcast on writing, and the subject was about the creative process. The point in it was to put energy towards the things you’re excited about. If a project is draining you, it might be time to set it down and walk away. It may be the wrong project.
Listening to this, I realized how draining this story is to me right now. And all day long I’ve been mulling over whether it’s time to set this down and start on something new. It’s tempting – there’s one project I’ve placed on the back burner that I’m itching to dive into. But I’ve also realized that I’m struggling with this story because it’s edging a place in my own life that’s difficult to write about. As I get closer to that part of the story, the temptation to walk away from the book grows.
So for now, I’m sticking with the story. I’m not sure how many people will actually be affected whether I write this story or not, but I realize I need to at least try. There still might come a day when I decide I need to put this down for my own sanity. But for now, I’m going to let Rachel, John, Joey, and Sam share their story through me, and maybe even offer a few answers towards my own messy family.