Sunday, May 1, 2011

What I Know About Love

By Lisabet Sarai

For this week's topic, Garce has asked us to discuss what women and men know about love – presumably with the assumption that gender in some way determines one's perspective on Eros. I hate to disappoint him, but I'm definitely not willing to speak for the whole of my sex. I don't think my love life has been typical of the generic Woman. I'm not sure that concept even makes sense. In any case, I'm convinced that however you define the norm, I'm not it.

I've loved many men, and some women too. I don't consider myself monogamous, even though I've acted that way for quite a long time. No, I'm not even tempted to make pronouncements about Venus as opposed to Mars.

But I must know something about love. I've been alive for almost six decades, and I haven't been living in a convent. So I thought for awhile about the question, and here's what I realized.

Love is like writing.

You can't force it. Your parents may introduce you to the perfect spouse, but if the spark isn't there, no amount of wishing is going to make love happen. In a similar vein, you can make yourself sit in your chair and put your fingers on the keys, but regardless of goals or deadlines, it's not always possible to create something worth reading. I go through the motions anyway, hoping for the best, but I know the difference between inspiration and stubbornness, and I suspect that my readers do, too.

It's not rational. Love comes from someplace beyond or beneath the conscious mind. Maybe it's literally chemistry, neurotransmitters or endogenous opiates or pheromones, as some studies have suggested. Maybe it's a connection of spirit, an indication of intertwined karma or the fallout from past lives. It's not something that can be analyzed, though. Love is not a decision (although commitment may be). In the same way, I can come up with a dozen “reasons” why I write, but none of them get the to core compulsion. I write because I've always written – because it's what comes naturally, the way I express myself, the way I order my thoughts and understand my world. It's a part of me, that I at least believe arises from the soul – though maybe someone right now is discovering the enzymes that turn someone into a great author!

It's different for different people. Some people can separate love and sex. I really can't. If I don't feel some special connection to my partner, having sex is going to be boring or even aversive. Not everyone feels that way. The “zipless fuck” works perfectly well for some.

On the other hand, there are people who can love deeply without ever having any kind of sexual component to their relationship. That would be pretty rough for me. I've had plenty of unrequited loves, but always accompanied by at least a fantasy of carnal interaction.

In the same vein, every writer approaches the activity differently. I sit down with a setting, a premise and some sketchy characters and write from the beginning of a story to the end. Garce is blessed (or cursed) with vivid scenes that he captures in words; then he strings them out on his “clothesline”, trying to to fit them together. I don't know much about Kathleen, Jean or Charlotte's writing methods, and nothing about Kristina's, but I'll bet they're all somewhat different.

Rejection hurts. When you love but the feeling is not returned, it cuts to the bone. It feels like a repudiation of who you are as a person. Rejection of your writing can feel almost as bad, especially at first. However, in love and in writing, you can't allow bitterness, fear or disappointment stop you from plunging back in. Here's where making a decision is relevant. You can't force love or writing; you can't go looking for it. But you can decide to remain open, to be willing to love – or write – again, even when you're suffering the pain of rejection.

There's always more. Love is not some kind of finite, measurable quantity. You can't run out of it. If you give love to one individual, that doesn't necessarily decrease the amount you have available for someone else . You can love multiple people, at different stages of your life, or even concurrently. There may be solid arguments for monogamy, but the notion that the amount of love we can give or receive is limited to one person doesn't seem reasonable to me.

I think that writing is the same way. Every one of us has had disappointments: the horrible cover, the book full of typos, the publisher that folds, the publisher that won't release your rights no matter how hard you beg. When I'm tempted to get depressed by this sort of occurrence, I remind myself: there's always another story. I've been publishing for nearly a dozen years now, and I recently figured out that I've had more than fifty stories included in various anthologies. I never dreamed, when I wrote my first novel, that I had so many tales inside.

Yes, I think love is like writing. Or maybe it's the other way around. When I'm deep in the throes of inspiration, it feels like being in love. I think love and writing come from the same place, the passionate, creative center within us all.


  1. Well said. They are both such individual things, mysterious and powerful.

    And both are wonderfully addictive.

  2. Addictive indeed!

    I wonder if being in love helps one be a better writer. Of course some people are inspired by thwarted or unreconciled love.

  3. I used to think I had to be terribly unhappy to be a writer. Then I decided that was silly. All I need to be a writer is to write.

    As for process... hmm. I'm usually struck by a vivid scene. Then I try to figure out who those people were and what was going on. Writing is how I find out.

  4. Hi Lisabet!

    That's an interesting way of looking at it, love and writing. I can see your point.

    To some extent the topic this week was inspired by you. During a post a couple years ago when i recounted my first sexual experience you remarked that you think sometimes sex is harder for men than for women, which I found very intriguing. I think I even stashed that comment in a story somewhere because I was quite struck by it.

    I think it is different to some extent. I'm always curious to see how women experience things. I think this weeks topic will be a challenge.

    Now if you;ll excuse me, I have some scenes to take out of the wash and hang up on my clothesline . . . Some of them started out smelling like bullshit. Now they smell better.


  5. Hi, Kathleen,

    So your scenes sort of come out of nowhere? Interesting. That rarely happens to me.

    About being unhappy - sometimes I think my writing is shallow because I've experience so little anguish and tragedy. I know that's probably ridiculous but I can't quite shake the notion. I wrote a lot more poetry when I was dealing with unrequited love than I have since I've been happily married.

  6. Hi, Garce,

    I said sex was harder, not love. Of course this is just a theory. My reasoning was that men are expected to be active, to "perform". I have the feeling that this engenders a great deal of anxiety. I've also gotten the feeling that many men grow up sex-deprived. As a result, they're focused on sex per se - any sex - rather than on the quality of the experience or the depth of the connections.

    Like I said - just a theory.

  7. Love and writing... makes my world go 'round. :-) The endorphin rush feels the same (or at least very similar) to me. You've given me food for thought!

  8. Endorphins, yeah. Or maybe something more mystical. Either way, I think there's a connection.

  9. Inspiring post, Lisabet. And yes, love & writing seem parallel. Writing has definitely helped me survive love-droughts.