This is especially true in the literary world. How often is it that you finish a book, only to start thumbing through its pages to find certain parts you just have to re-read? I do it all the time. If the book is good, I’m sorry to see it end. When I was young, I hated leaving the March sisters in Little Women. Ditto with Anne in Anne of Green Gables. I want to prolong my time with those characters simply because their stories were just too riveting to leave.
Now that I’m a writer, I find this is especially true. Authors go to great lengths to create imaginary worlds to suck readers into them, and I’m no exception. But I never realized just how draining it is on an author to leave that self-created world when it comes to an end.
I think it’s a little like being an actor. Think about it: an actor’s job is to make viewers believe he is the character he is portraying. That means he has to eat, drink, walk, and talk so that people forget who he really is. That’s a daunting task.
I read an article about Johnny Depp once (he’s my go-to guy), where he said that he goes into a period of mourning after finishing a role. It sounds a little weird, but I can see his point. Filming a movie can take up to a year sometimes. That’s a long time to stay in character and not feel bereft when it’s over.
The same can be said for writers. We write about an alternate reality for months on end. When we finally type those two little words “The End” it can be a two-edged sword. We can feel relieved that we finally finished, yet we’re sad to see the last of that little world that we created.
I’m at that point right now. I just finished writing my latest work in progress, which took ten months to complete. And now I miss my characters! It feels crazy to say it out loud, but it’s true. I miss their antics, their thoughts, their problems, their entire world. For ten months I lived with them, breathing life into them from my imagination. Mr. Depp isn’t too far off; I’m mourning the loss of my creations.
During this past year I’ve wakened every morning with these “people” on my mind. What will happen to them today? What will they say? What will they do? My thoughts would cast about for new problems to throw at them, and then I would have to construct their reactions. When I went for walks, they came along with me, nudging into my consciousness, begging for my attention. I would wrestle with their dilemmas, struggle to help them work through their difficulties just like I do with my real-life children. In fact, they’re a little like having another set of children.
Sometimes my characters invaded my sleep, waking me at three in the morning, forcing me to blearily scribble down my thoughts on paper, only to wonder what the heck I’d written when I try to decipher it in the morning. They’ve been my constant companions for nearly a year, and now they are gone. Ripped from me by my own doing. And I’m sad.
I know, to the non-writer it sounds a little on the cra-cra side. I’ll be the first to admit it. When I first started this writing gig five years ago for fun, I had no idea how it would consume my life. I didn’t realize that the worlds and characters that I create would infiltrate my existence so invasively, to the point that I talk about these people like they are real. Definitely cra-cra.
But, it’s a fact of my new life, and one I must come to terms with. Like Johnny Depp, I need to give myself time to mourn, time to adjust to not having an alternate world to hide in when my real life gets too busy. And it’s going to take a little time. But pretty soon the creative bug inside of me will get hungry again, and a new world, new characters will emerge, and I will jump into their lives with just as much gusto as before. Such is the life of a writer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!