This is not just a revelation of a writer in the making, but a bit of a confession as well. This confession may upset some of my friends, or it may come as no surprise. I doubt I was terribly non-transparent in my youth.
It recently dawned on me that even as a child I had an exceedingly active imagination. Bored with the real world, I spent a great deal of time creating alternate lives in my mind. I wrote terrible stories about these lives; stories that usually ended tragically. For years I held on to the stories I wrote in my youth, but some time in the last ten years they were tossed in the recycling bin, never to see the light of day again. And it was probably for the better. I wouldn’t want my creative name besmeared by the horrific writing. Without a doubt, I had a creative mind.
According to Scholastic, one of the ways for parents to enhance the creative process in their children is by creating story prompts. I did this on my own. As a latch-key kid, I spent a lot of time home alone (or with my older brother/sister). My parents both worked hard to give us the life they never had a chance to have. This isn’t to say we were poor (though as a child when I didn’t get something that other kids had I would have argued the point selfishly). As teenagers my parents were thrust into parenthood, and soon after married. It has been almost 40 years and their marriage still works in its own way, but growing up we were a middle class family. My parents made enough to support us comfortably, but not to warrant frivolous spending.
As a result of my upbringing, I spent a great deal of time in my mind. In 3rd grade, my teacher took an interest in my reading skills; they were less than adequate. By the end of 3rd grade I excelled. Books became an addiction. I went from hardly being able to read, to reading books by VC Andrews and Dean Koontz by 5th grade. In fact, I still have the first book I ever wrote: Mariah and the Haunted House (completed in either 4th or 5th grade).
But this addiction to reading fed my creative engine in ways that may not have been normal. As I said before, I was bored with the real world. There was an entire alternate reality that existed in my mind for years. This reality became so complex that I wanted to share the story with others… and I did. The problem was, it wasn’t something I wrote and handed to them for them to read. I told them the stories; and in my world those stories happened to me. I was the main character after all. By the time it occurred to me (at some point in middle school; when it happened exactly is vague) that the other kids thought I was relating these stories to what really happened to me, it was too late. Many of them thought I believed all of this to be real (and perhaps on some level of crazy I did, or wanted them to be) and I began to sustain harassment from them; even from my closest friends. As a pre-teen, realizing this mistake or misunderstanding was too much for me. I couldn’t back pedal and try to explain myself because I would forever be labeled the crazy girl (or liar); I couldn’t just drop it because some of the kids asked me questions about this imaginary life. Instead of doing the right thing, my adolescent fear of being labeled as crazy, for something that I believed had started off as innocent, turned into something else all together.
Fear took over. My creative mind wanted to prove that some of these things could be possible even if they weren’t. I did ridiculous things like paste magazine pictures to photo paper (these were the days before digital and Photoshop). I was afraid of everyone discovering the truth.
And over time, I carefully started to keep my stories to myself and shifted further away from sharing them with others. It wasn’t until I was in high school and really started to discover writing as an art that these stories began to construct themselves on paper instead of orally. The nightmare that was middle school was over, and my pen set to paper instead of my mouth setting to words. I carried notebooks around school with me and wrote screenplays during class. These alternate realities still existed for years, until shortly after I graduated from high school and fell in love. My creative mind just couldn’t stop creating these stories and worlds. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the tedium of the real world. I don’t think that ever changed.
The realization that my young creative mind was trying to manifest itself took years to occur to me. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I really understood what my mind was doing. When reality wasn’t enough to keep me entertained, I constructed an alternate reality in my mind that proved much more entertaining. I probably owe those close friends who stuck by me in my youth, despite it all, an apology for my cowardice and inability to just come clean. The stories were real, but only in my mind.
I’ve come a long way since those horrific days in middle school. In fact, this is the first time I have openly stated exactly where my mind was at the time. I think it took me this long to realize it, and what it meant to me. Even as a child I had an actively creative mind, the foundations of a writer in the making.