I’ve just always been a storyteller. Storybooks and fairytales were never quite enough to satisfy my sense of adventure and curiosity when I was younger. So like many children do, at some point I just started making up my own stories.
Imagination has no limits. I could think up any series of events I wanted, and it was so real to me, almost like it was really happening.
Then, probably through all those essays we had to learn to write in middle school, I discovered that like playing with my Barbie dolls or Beanie Babies, like drawing pictures, I could take the stories circling around in my head and bring them to life, through putting words onto a page.
When you’re so young, and you’re just starting to figure out how to piece together a story with a plot, characters, and some kind of beginning, middle and end, it doesn’t matter that you’re not writing very well. No 10-year-old is going to write a story without making mistakes, leaving plot holes, sometimes maybe not even really including a plot at all.
So when I say I’ve been telling stories for forever, I’m not at all implying I’ve always been good at it (or even that I can be good at it now). Refining writing skills literally takes years. I just never gave up, and kept writing even though I knew I wasn’t the best, kept writing, even though I knew my parents and teachers were probably just being polite with their compliments.
Kept writing, even though deep down I knew I might never be good enough.
Then one day, some day, I learned how to get lost.
Not lost in the grocery store (thank God) or lost in a crowd, but lost in a story. So drawn into what you’re writing in the present that it pulls you right out of where you’re sitting and you find yourself in a completely different time and place.
It doesn’t happen every time you sit down to write. Sometimes you do have to sit back and really think about what you’re doing, where you’re going with this, whether or not you need to keep that.
But every once in a while, when you start an ongoing chain of dialogue or there’s an intense scene ahead of you, something happens. You almost watch the events as they begin to play out on the page. You can almost here the characters speak their “lines” in your head. You are there, in that moment. You are in two places at once: at the control booth of the story, and part of it, simultaneously.
It’s hard to come back. But when that scene ends, or someone or something interrupts, you always do. I don’t know about you, but I very rarely want to. I don’t write to escape, but every now and again, it’s a nice perk, isn’t it?
No, when I’m writing a funeral scene, I don’t wish I was there. When I’m writing about grief, I don’t wish it upon myself, too—but you get swept up in what’s happening, before you even realize. So whether happy or sad, intense or gradually building up to it, you’re committed to getting pulled into everything, without warning.
But when we get lost like that, something else happens: we stop second-guessing ourselves. It’s easier to see what’s the most realistic thing that will happen next. It’s easier to engage in a stream of consciousness so deep that even if we consider for a second whether it was a good idea for Character X to say that, it’s already gone, and we just let it be.
That’s how you know you’re okay. That you’re not going to hit a wall anytime soon. That your story is there, somewhere deep inside you, it just has to come out in pieces. It takes a little writing, a little resting, and then some more writing (and repeat).
Is it always the best work we can do? No. Maybe it never is.
But in those moments we let the ideas run the show, that’s when it comes to life for real.
And I would not give that up for anything. Ever.
Image courtesy of Flickr.
A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.