Jilted: Letter to a Writer

letter in the hands

Dear Friend,

Yesterday you called to say you’ve been jilted. The relationship was finally over and for good this time. You added that if he calls, maybe you’ll consider giving him another chance, but if he doesn’t, well then it’s really finished because you are not crawling back to him again.

Since I’m not there to comfort you or speak rationally to your distraught mind, I’m writing this letter. Sometimes we need to hear certain words from a person on the outside.

My friend, you said the breakup came as a shock and perhaps this is true but, with all gentleness I want to ask, haven’t you been wondering for some time now?

I know the first days you spent with him were glorious. You were flying. Bursting with energy because the words were coming unbidden. I remember your excitement and our long conversations about the relationship. The story.

Lately, though, you haven’t shown the same joy. When you’ve mentioned the story I’ve only heard doubts, frustrations, and angst. Of course we all know that struggles are part of any relationship; no one stays in the honeymoon stage. Sooner or later we slog through mud. We have to face the imperfections in our own work, the weaknesses in our abilities. These last few months, though, I’ve sensed that what was going on between you and him, well I’ve sensed it was more than the usual problems.

I don’t mean to be harsh but did it really come as a shock? This realization that things weren’t working out? What about that weekend when you walked out on him, slamming the door and shouting that you were finished? You came back with apologies on Monday morning, of course, and who could blame you after the countless hours, the months, the years of striving to find the right words.

After that weekend you decided to work harder. You said, “If I just cut the beginning, or maybe try a different point of view and what if I switch Chapter 5 with Chapter 7?”

You were willing to do anything.

But weren’t you suspicious? Deep down in your writer’s soul, didn’t you begin to wonder if maybe he wasn’t the one? Didn’t you ask yourself if perhaps he wasn’t going to be the story to bring what you wanted? Publication…acknowledgement…success.
Then there was the night you caught him trying to find Marilynne Robinson’s phone number. And what about the day he sat gazing at the picture of Toni Morrison? I know you’ve been feeling as though you weren’t good enough for him, as though you were being compared to Chekov or Ha Jin or Junot Diaz and falling far short. In truth, the one doing the comparing was yourself.

You’ve poured your heart and mind into this relationship. I know you have. Yesterday on the phone, though, you told me that lately it felt as though he was giving nothing back, as though he had pulled away. After that stormy weekend it wasn’t the same. Even your readers saw it. I mean, wasn’t it obvious in what they didn’t say? You told me they gave so few comments. And your mother with her, “That’s nice, dear.”

Well, my friend, you are facing the painful truth that despite your determination, your work ethic and your foolhardy belief in the story, it’s over. You weren’t made for each other as you’d once thought.

And now you say you’re embarrassed. Completely humiliated that you spent all that time.

Don’t be. It happens to all of us. And no, I will not let you use the “f” word about your work. Please don’t. You are not a failure. The story is not a failure. You know it’s not healthy to use that word and and when used in excess it leads to bad places soaked in alcohol, drugs and depression. I’m serious about this. You are not a failure.

Hey, we all have broken relationships. You’ll pick yourself up from this one, just like you did the last. I hate to say this, but you will learn from it. Clichéd as that sounds, it’s true and deep down you know it. The years of work weren’t a waste. Wrestling with a story is an experience few people have and it is the wrestling, regardless of the outcome, that makes you a writer. A real writer. It is the struggle that expands you. That experience is never a waste of time.

Despite my words of encouragement, though, I want to tell you that it’s okay right now to grieve.

Grieve as you set aside this relationship, telling yourself and your friends that you’re just putting it on the shelf “for now.” And even though you feel like it’s your fault, that it was your lack of ability that broke things up, I’d recommend telling everyone that it was him, not you.

Write in your journal. Listen to some love-gone-wrong songs.

Take a long walk. Then pull yourself over to the desk and begin again.

You’re going to find your story. And the right story is going to find you. I know it.