Imaginary Friends

It turns out, finishing a novel is kinda like breaking up with someone.

You put in all this time and energy. You give yourself fully. You let yourself fall in love. Then it ends.

Maybe you saw it coming. Maybe you were just counting down the days. But that doesn’t prepare you for the moment it happens, the moment you know it’s really truly over. And you’re left feeling empty and raw. Not knowing how to spend your time. Not even knowing what to think about.

What I’m saying is, I finished my novel. What I’m saying is, instead of celebrating my success I spent last week moping around the house. Really moping. Like, eating ice cream and watching Dawson’s Creek.

(Okay, I confess, watching Dawson’s Creek wasn’t entirely an act of despair. It’s just that I finished watching the first season of The Affair recently—an amazing show—and it revitalized my childhood crush on Joshua Jackson. Rewatching Dawson’s Creek was the next logical step.)

I didn’t think finishing the novel was going to be a huge party or anything. I knew I’d probably get a little melancholy about it. I just wasn’t prepared for such an overwhelming feeling of loss.

Because that seems crazy.

It is crazy.

It’s just… my characters sort of became real to me.

That’s the issue. The characters. It’s not the world or the story that I miss. It’s that over the course of writing (and the years before writing when the ideas had already started to form) the characters started to become really real.

They became my (imaginary) friends.

I spent every day with them. I know who they are and how they think and what they feel. I know them better than I know anyone in real life, because no matter how well you know a person, you can’t ever climb inside their head.

And now I have to say goodbye. The story is done. Sure, there will be some rewrites here and there. I’ll return briefly to that world. But I won’t ever be as fully invested as I was. It’ll be a place where I vacation, but can never live.

Writing short stories really didn’t prepare me for the level of attachment I’d feel for a novel. For how hard it would be to let go.

You know how it works with relationships, though. You break up with someone and for a while it really hurts. For a while you’re sad and use that sadness as an excuse to binge watch Dawson’s Creek.

But eventually, you pick yourself up. You move on. You go out into the world. You meet someone new. And it all starts again.

Time for a new story. New characters.

That’s the cool thing about writing. You have a million chances to fall in love.