Once Upon a Time, when there was such a thing as extra time, (I used to call it Free Time, back when I believed that such a thing existed. Now I know that it just isn’t so. You have to pay for it one way or another.) I used to be a fiction writer.
It began innocently enough. Sitting and twirling my swing, I shared stories and adventures with my imaginary friend in the side yard of the old clapboard house of my youth. She listened with great interest and never interrupted. In time, illustrations followed and the stories grew in depth and character.
When we moved into a country farmhouse during my middle school years, I created paper doll people and paper doll cut-out villages to go with my stories and the world that my characters lived in. They took up residence in my bedroom closet. As my clothes were strewn about the floor, there was plenty of room there and every day after school I would join them on the closet floor, and create for them a brand new world. Their lives were full of adventures. They were sassy and talked back. I never did. They traveled the world and saw everything. I lived in a town where all the kids went to school on the same bus. They wore exotic clothes and were popular and had bright shiny hair and flashing, expressive eyes. My stringy dishwater brown hair hung in my dull brown eyes, shielding me to hide my shyness.
We moved again, (and again, and again) making the process of building lasting friendships a difficult one. I was friendly, yet uncommitted. My head was either buried in reading a book or writing a book. I lived inside the pages of fantasy. Inspiration came from reading every book I could get my hands on. When I did need to relate to someone, it was easy to pull out a character and try it on for whatever situation needed to be handled. The first inklings and seeds of the actress began to grow within.
By the time I arrived at high school, my first novel had been completed and sat buried in the bottom of my t-shirt drawer. Along with it was another complete series of shorter stories, all bound together, adventures of middle school girls trying to survive their way through the popular world of junior high, while being different. A book of poetry sat on top of my desk, never put away-because it was added to, almost daily.
One day, I peeked out from behind a page and saw a strange world standing before me. High School was a bustling, harsh place to be, especially for someone who had mastered zero social skills. A refuge for others like myself welcomed me in the theater department. There, for the first time, I met others who shared my traits. Actors, writers, dreamers, artists–people who believed that what you could see in your mind could be more real than what was standing before you. I had come home into a family of my own. I wasn’t different anymore.
The high school years of theater and writing classes and having teachers who molded my skills were a wonderful-if not way too short- time of my life. Actually, truthfully, I hated all of it except the part where I could get to the writing and the acting. Everything else was impatiently tolerated until I could dive back in to the deep well of creativity and be immersed again in the flow of talent that surrounded me.
Then life took an abrupt shift. Choices made became a direction turned and I moved forward into becoming a mother and learning the life lessons of living in the REAL WORLD. Not much room for fiction there…
I have kept the creativity in my life. I have had to. I stayed in my community theater, learned to paint. It has been hard to find that balance over the years, and there have been many lessons learned about what happens to my spirit when I let it die back. Hint: It isn’t a pretty thing. I need it like I need air.
But the fiction writing took a seat way in the back of the bus. After spending so much time NOT in reality, I had needed to find a way to become authentic. Figure out who the real Wendi was. NOT a fiction character chameleon that could shape-shift on a dime, but the real deal. What was important to me, where were MY boundaries, what were the consistencies and the threads that bound my spirit through the ages of my life. The unchangeables? The areas that I needed to grow and cultivate? The areas that I needed to prune and cut away?
A lot of those questions have been answered over the decade that has been my forties. Hurray for the 40’s for there is time to look in the mirror. At least there has been for me. And now that I can see myself standing there, my–self, my true self, not the self that I shifted into for the sake of others, I can see that she is writing fiction again.
It started out innocently enough. First little stories I had been imagining in my head. Then just a few chapters of a story idea that I jotted down in a file on the computer. Then one day, a title of a children’s book, so I wrote that down too. With a few paragraphs to follow. Then a few days later, a few more pages for that. Gosh…a few more chapters of that first book were floating around up there. So I wrote them down too.
Now Men with Pens have an on-line Escape from Reality fiction story writing group and I have a character there. (You can follow along if you like, but fair warning…its so darn good and fun, it’s addictive!)
The ideas and the story lines and the characters are all coming back home, as if they have been gone for a very long holiday. I welcome them back with a bit of apprehension. I have real-life responsibilities now. I’m not that free-time little girl who can afford to live up in her head. I have a family to take care of and a blog to write and a REAL world to live in now. It would be very easy to slip away, fall down the rabbit-hole and become vaguely lost to the happenings around me. I don’t want to do that. I love my real-time life. My family and friends are an enormous part of my happiness and joy.
This will be the first time I will try to honestly face the world of fiction writing with balance and structure. I know its been done by others . I don’t know how to do it. Quieting the stories at inappropriate times when there is a story happening in your head and all you want to do is grab a pen and write it down? In the middle of making dinner or entertaining guests? Agh…I think I have shut it down for a long, long time out of fear for situations just as that. How do I be in two places at once?
It is going to be interesting. (shaking my head) Help!!
I’m taking any and all thoughts and suggestions here…..comments? I’m quite sure my family would appreciate your help too!