There is something about the idea of starting over many of us seem to love.  We look forward to a new month, a new season, the New Year, sometimes even a new week. We crave the empty page, the clean slate, a fresh start. After all of the craziness of my last several months, the learning and the losses, I can understand the allure. There’s nothing I want more some days than to wake up, start new and have everything go according to plan this time.

I’ve noticed recently there are quite a few romances novels with this theme. The story starts when the heroine (it’s occasionally the hero, but not usually) has a chance to start a new life. She loses her job and leaves the city behind. A friend invites her for a vacation after she breaks up with the boyfriend who wasn’t really good for her and she decides to spend two weeks somewhere new “getting her life together”. She inherits her grandmother’s flower shop/bed and breakfast/old home which needs lots of work. There are many variations, but the premise is clear: I want a do-over.

For the characters in books, the new life begins and with it comes new challenges, new lessons and, of course, a new love and a happy ending.  Outside of the book… it’s not quite that easy, and I think I’m starting to understand why.

When creating the main character, either male or female, I spend time uncovering their backstory, who they are before the book begins. What happened to them to make them the way they are when the reader first meets them? What mistakes have they made and how were they raised? What do they want most, and what are they most lacking? As I discover the answers, I find their internal goal and motivation, and then I get to create the conflict which will bring this out for them. If a character wants a new start, it’s usually because they’ve made a mistake, a wrong turn, and they want a chance to take what they’ve learned and do it better.  That’s something many of us long for.

So what stops us?

It’s that damn backstory.

Why do we – I – want to start over? Because I’ve screwed something up or I’ve done something wrong. I’ve made choices I regret. Something needs to be fixed. I need to be fixed. And there’s the problem.

The underlying belief behind the desire for a clean slate is that something is wrong with me. There is some flaw that I have which caused these challenges I’m having and I want those flaws to disappear. I’ve learned my lesson – time for a fresh start. Right?

Not exactly.

What I’ve learned is I am so tied to the belief something is wrong with me (I’m not doing enough, I’m not successful enough, I’ll never get this… you know the list) there is no way I can make a lasting change because the negative lie that I’m telling myself is the driving force.  If the foundation of the change is “I’m broken” then how can I believe in and stay motivated for the change I want?

So, what’s the answer?

Well, for the characters I create, I give them ways to learn their internal truths and release the lie they’ve been telling themselves, the lie that’s been holding them back from what they’re lacking.

For me? I suppose I have to start to look at and acknowledge the lie and then do the same – look for ways to release it. It’s something I’m thinking about and looking for ways to act on. This is going to be my focus for the next few weeks. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on why we crave the fresh start and what, if anything, has been your experience of it.

The Allure of Starting Over
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