Historical and Contemporary Romance Author

Commitment Phobia

I think it’s safe to say that one of the most common conflicts for heroes (and to a lesser extent, heroines) in romance is a fear of commitment. This fear usually extends from an incident in the character’s backstory wherein said character loved and lost in a big way. Having been hurt by one woman (or man), the character has lost all faith in the opposite sex and must overcome this internal conflict to reach a wonderful HEA with the person he/she was truly meant to love all along.

Recently, I’ve seen a few reviewers and commentators say they’re pretty sick and tired of this trope, and just what the hell kind of weenie has ONE bad experience and extrapolates from it a lifelong mistrust of ALL members of the opposite sex. I kind of agreed…until it hit me today (as the result of the insightful comments of my dear Amie Stuart) that I’m having exactly this kind of commitment phobia. It’s just that it’s about falling in love with a story, not a person.

Ever since the book my agent and I shopped over the summer failed to garner any offers, I’ve been flitting from story idea to story idea like a Regency rake from one eligible young lady to another. Each one seems more attractive than the last, but there’s always the possibility that “Story Right” (SR) is hiding just around the corner.

The thing is, I’ve had an absolute surfeit of really great story concepts in the past few months. I’ve written a dozen or more blurbs for various ideas and a few pages here and there of this or that, but then a new idea comes along and knocks the latest SR off its pedestal. I have a brief fling with new SR, and then, voila, that one is also shoved aside by the next Bright New Shiny.

I’ve always been prone to this. Until I finished my first single title (the one gathering dust under my bed) back in late 2007, I think I’d only ever managed to complete one other story of more than a few thousand words in length in my life, and I wrote a lot. I just rarely found stories that so engaged my imagination that I couldn’t easily be distracted from completing them when a “better” idea came along. So this is nothing new…

But it is backsliding. For a while there, I finished a lot of stories. None of them single title, I grant you, but still–I maintained enough interest in them to get to The End. Now, I’m finding myself barely able to get to 10k before I start to have doubts and look for something else to work on.

Amie suggested to me earlier today when I sprang my latest and greatest Really Cool Idea(TM) that maybe the reason I’m coming up with all these great ideas is to avoid actually writing anything. And I realized, damn her, she’s right! It’s purely subconscious, of course–or it was until she pointed it out to me, drat it–but my mind is shying away from committing to any one book because I am afraid of getting hurt again. I don’t want to pour my time, energy, and yes, love, into another story only to have it rejected. It’s easier to avoid love altogether than to risk getting hurt.

All of which circles back around to my original point. Do I believe that ONE bad experience can lead to a longterm inability to trust in love? Absolutely. In fact, I’d say it’s the oldest plot in the book :).


  • Evangeline October 15, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Awesome way to tie in a romance trope with real life. Like you, I’ve long struggled with the “sexy new idea” and ignoring the urge to set aside my current WIP for a new fling. I’m working on it…:D

  • Kris Eton October 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Since we all have different paths in our writing career, I think your fear is intriguing to me from the outside. See, I started writing with the goal of writing full-length books. I wrote 4 of them before I decided to try something shorter. And now I’ve written 5.

    So I have a history there of taking an idea, running with it all the way to the end of an 80K+ book and failing to find a home for it. That type of failure doesn’t bother me, I don’t see it as a waste of my writing time, etc.

    But for you, you are coming at it from a totally different direction, so I can see how it would be paralyzing to start writing again. You have an agent. You have a book in print already. The goal for your writing is more concrete and real than mine ever was. And the pressure is there…pressure that I didn’t have.

    I definitely think you need to push past the idea of the next story as being better and more interesting. You have to train yourself to turn that off and complete some of these other great book ideas and see where they go. Because you are a fabulous writer, Jackie. I hate to see your cool ideas and wonderful writing skills go to waste!

  • Amie Stuart October 22, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    >>I don’t want to pour my time, energy, and yes, love, into another story only to have it rejected.

    WORD!! But I’m LMAO because this was just DAMNED clever!


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