One day I was whining to an author friend of mine Muffy Morrigan about feeling a bit on the crazy side because of all the ideas in my head, and how with everything else going on, it was a bit overwhelming at times. Her response? “Never trust a sane writer.” Well, that explains so much about me doesn’t it? Now if I had only embraced it decades ago!
You know, for most of my life I felt like the square peg amidst a sea of round holes; even my best friends in school were a different shape – ovals or even obliques. Needless to say, I really didn’t feel comfortable around too many people and I could tell the feeling was mutual. Sure, I’d have glimpses of feeling like either I did fit in with someone or it didn’t matter to them if I didn’t, but those were so far and few between that I can scarcely remember the precise moments. A lonely existence? Well, it would have been if not for my constant companion, imagination.
Being an only child I often had to find ways to amuse myself and make sure I stayed out of trouble as well as out of my parents’ hair. Normally I didn’t find that hard, I had been doing it since I was about three when I would go with my mom to the dry cleaners she managed. However, there were times that I would be so engrossed in my own little world that I’d miss something either my mom or dad would say and I’d get… the look. Oh c’mon, you know the one. It’s the one thing that all parents can do that will suddenly stop a child in their tracks and make them wonder just what they did (if they didn’t already know) or instantly think about how not to get their butt beat. Needless to say, there were a lot of sideways glances and shaking of the head going on in my family for many years. What they didn’t understand was, I wasn’t ignoring them, they just weren’t included. Wow, that didn’t sound better did it?
From my own experience, you have children who play as an extension of themselves and those who want to be an extension of something else. If you follow the common stereotype then little girls will be the best mommy to their baby doll, frequently bringing in their own mommy or daddy in to have a tea party just like ‘grown ups’. And little boys will play cops and robbers with their friends and often use their parents as either props or victims, whichever is needed at the time. Me, I didn’t fit the stereotype at all. I would play with anything and everything often including characters in my head doing their own little thing like my own personal TV show, often making a spot in there for me as well since it was just the right thing to do – I created it, therefore I should be a part of it, right? Little did I know… I wasn’t crazy! Wait, that’s not right… I wasn’t alone in my insanity, yeah, that’s more like it!
Fan fiction apparently has been around for decades. Housewives would write their own plots to their favorite soap operas, teens would write their own endings to books or movies – and here’s the funny part, most of the time none of them told anyone else what they were doing. Crazy, right? I know that I’ve been guilty of it on more than one occasion (the 80’s were a prime candidate for it) and now I’m seeing more and more people coming out of the fan fiction closet and admitting, “Yes, I write fan fiction.” I was at a fan fiction author’s conference last summer and each and every one of us said the exact same thing, “I thought I was the only one who did this. I was sure I was nuts!” Okay, admittedly I can’t vouch for anyone else’s state of mind or mental health. However, I can vouch that there are tons of talented writers out there who hide behind a pseudonym on some obscure fan fiction website, worried that they’ll be discovered by family or friends who don’t know what they’re really doing when they begin to write furiously in a notebook, envelope, or napkin. Too many are worried about ridicule, whether because of the subject or maybe because they’re afraid of vicious criticism (yes, it happens). Which is why I’m so puzzled about something else, why doesn’t everyone write?
I’ve been told by many people that they are impressed that I write and they wish they could too. My first question is, “Why can’t you?” To me it’s a no-brainer, if you have something in your head, write it down. Of course I’m not so dense that I don’t understand what they really mean, that what they put down on paper doesn’t come out like Shakespeare or Keats, but does that really mean that they shouldn’t write? It’s bad enough that our children aren’t being taught penmanship anymore because everything is going to computers, do we give up our creativity as well? I don’t care if the story is so hard to read it gives me a headache (and yes, I’ve read stories like that), I can usually enjoy the plot, the thought process, the characters that make me cringe, laugh or cry. Why don’t we encourage people to exercise their minds like we encourage those striving to lose a few pounds? Embrace your inner writer even if it’s to write a perceived wrong in a story arc of a favorite show, preserve your day onto paper in a way that when reading it again you can remember what it was like, or even just write a letter (one with actual words and no emoticons) to a dear friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be you. And maybe, just maybe, the crazier the better.