Thursday, August 16, 2012
Though I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller for as long as I can remember, I reached a point in my creative life where I wondered about my own mind. For as long as I could remember characters and stories were always rattling around in my mind. I dreamed up wondrous and fabulous adventure stories when I was a kid. I would fall asleep at night to stories playing in my mind. I would day dream of other worlds, other lives, and places I had never been.
I assumed everyone in the world was just like me.
One day when I was probably in junior high someone asked me what I was thinking about. I had zoned out, thinking about some other world, and I told them. They were shocked at my response.
"When you daydream, don't you imagine other places, people, and stuff?"
"Uh, no. I think about what I'm doing when I get home or going shopping," was the reply.
I quickly realized that my imaginary worlds were not the norm. That what was going on in my head was seen as weird, odd, and downright crazy.
It would probably take another decade before I became so bothered by my creativity and its source that I stopped writing altogether. The movie screen in my mind was always running, tossing up new adventures for me to watch, but I started to ignore them.
At about the same time I was reading about other writers and their writing process. A lot of them spoke about meticulously constructing their plots, worlds, and characters. They spoke about basing their characters on themselves or other people they knew, brainstorming to come up with stories, and how they struggled to create worlds. I had no idea how to process this information because characters, worlds, and stories were always traipsing into my mind to say hello, take up residence and wait for their turn to be written.
"Where are is it all coming from?" I wondered.
And had no real answer.
"You're fine as long as you don't hear voices in your head, " a friend joked when I told her my concerns.
I got a chill down my spine. "I hear many voices in my head, I see different worlds. Whole universes are inside of here," I said, pointing to my head.
"Well," she said diplomatically, "as long as they aren't telling you to kill someone, I think you're fine."
I suppose everyone in their twenties has to screw up to learn life lessons. I set aside my writing off and on, afraid of my own mind. I was also worried about why all the stories banging in my head were horror stories.
Diagnosed with PTSD after a severe car accident, my anxiety attacks were pretty severe and sometimes downright crippling. I also ended up having to deal with the aftermath of my very horrible childhood about the same time and went to counseling to find some relief. I set aside my writing completely to concentrate on rebuilding my life, moving to a new city, and starting over again.
A few years later I met my future husband. I told him about my dreams about one day being a full-time writer and how I had set them aside to concentrate on making a "real" life for myself. I confessed that I missed it. I felt half-alive because I wasn't writing anymore. With his encouragement, I began to reclaim my creativity.
Once I started writing again, it was like a dam burst inside. Everything came flowing out.I was almost overwhelmed with the creative energy that filled me. I had asked for years, in a fearful way, where did the stories come from? The characters? The worlds? Once I started writing again, I realized I didn't really care. Maybe my process was different from other writers, but it worked for me.
The good thing about this time period was that the internet was solidifying into the cyberworld it is today. Many more writers were online sharing their thoughts and I found out I wasn't actually alone. Many writers talked about discovering stories in odd ways. One writer talked about hearing a conversation in the back of her head and how she listened in to uncover her next novel. Writers talked about sudden inspiration, or unearthing stories from dreams. I realized I was not the only writer with worlds in my head. Not every writer was a meticulous plotter. Some writers were just like me.
Last night Kody Boye and I were talking about our creative process and he told me that he doesn't see a 3-D movie in his head like I do. He sees words. When he sees visuals, they're like still photographs. Again, I was boggled by this. Overwhelmed even. I couldn't imagine not having the massive movie in my head not running while I write.
A conversation I had years ago with a friend always gives me a strange comfort. It was during my crisis of faith in my writing and I shared with her the fear that I was somehow crazy. She thought it was funny and said, "I think that maybe every story written is true somewhere in another world. Maybe you being crazy is being able to pluck it out of the ether."
As nutty as that sounds, it actually comforted me. Maybe my mind is unusual. I have no idea how my imagination works. How it processes everything in my life to spin out these stories that I translate to paper for you to read. All I know is that it does do just that.
I like the movie screen in my head. It's entertaining. I like watching my characters and translating what I see into novels. Of course, the movie in my mind sometimes scares the crap out of me just like any good movie, but those are the exciting, happy moments for me. It's when the writing process feels wondrous and magical.
My crisis of faith ended when I realized that every story I write is true in some other world. The world of my readers' imaginations. For a short period of time, we explore that world together and enjoy all it has to offer. Our emotions may run the gamut from terrified to happy to sobbing messes, but for a time that world...that world born out of my crazy imagination...is real.
I still have no idea how I end up with all the wild ideas that float around in my head, but I accept that this is just how my mind works. Maybe I am some kind of nutter, but I'm okay with that. I have a happy life and write stories that I enjoy. I truly believe I was born to be a storyteller and I am blessed to have an audience.
Posted by Rhiannon Frater