I spent most of yesterday and today in that half-life in my mind that is so vivid and real, and where the people seem as real as anyone. Except they don’t exist outside the confines of my head. I know their voices, their appearances, their characters, and their innermost desires. In other words, I spent the last two days writing on the novel idea that I have, and which I will strive to finish this summer.
A few years ago I spent a lot of time in that place, when I discovered that this writing thing was something that I maybe was quite good at. That imaginary world seemed a lot better than the real one, and I couldn’t wait to drop the social responsibilities of early teenage life and drop into this much better world where there were sword fights and dragons and cute boys that didn’t mind liking other cute boys. Unlike the Neanderthals at school.
Eventually the dragons and the sword fights disappeared and more realistic scenarios took their place. That doesn’t mean that the scenarios were less fascinating or less interesting. They were like a laboratory where I could play act things that I wondered about. Most of the time the written records of my time in this other world, the novels and short stories that I tried to write, made me cringe once a week or two had passed. Even I could see that I had a lot to learn.
When I joined my online writer’s circle it was liberating because they didn’t know how old I was, and told me things straight. “Do this, don’t do that, this thing is a damned cliché and it’s boring. Do you really have to write five pages in passive voice? Oh come on, stop flipping between points of view – you’re giving me vertigo!” My precious thought out words were slaughtered, and they attacked my art! I felt like that for about a week, and then sent a new text, which got the same treatment. But after a while, there were less expressions of exasperation, and more constructive things.
I have done so little creative writing over the past two years, and that has mostly been confined to term breaks and the summer. What I seem to mostly produce nowadays are essays, and these blog posts. I enjoy writing the posts, but the essays seem more chore-like. When I do get a chance to write fiction, the reason I actually schemed and manipulated and whined about for so long until my parents relented, it’s such a rush.
I can go back into that place again, employ what I think I’ve learned, and maybe come across as a little more real and true than the scribbling of the fourteen or fifteen year old me. To contrast today’s writing, I dug out an old short story from two years ago. And the change is so big, and so deep that it doesn’t seem like the same person wrote it.
The difference between now and then is that I don’t particularly mind snapping out of the fantasy world, because when I do I might come down and find that Mark has cooked dinner, and sits at the kitchen table reading while the dogs slobber around their dishes and bowls in the corner. No, I don’t mind this world these days. Not at all.