One of the great pleasures of writing is the ability to get lost in your own world for a while. You have the opportunity ditch the “real world” for a while and play God as you build your own universe and manipulate the lives of the critters who occupy it. Sometimes I only get to spend a brief time immersed in my alternate reality, and sometimes I get lost in there for days. Yes – days. I get so wrapped up in my characters, in their conflicts and their challenges, that even when I’m back in my own reality, I carry them around with me, worrying about them, fretting for their issues, listening to their conversations. My characters are very real to me, and their dilemmas – even though I created them – are also very real to me. I dream about them, I wonder about them; they are like friends and sometimes family to me. I become detached from where I am because where they are is so much more interesting. While I love the experience, it sometimes annoys my family just a little.
Recently, I’ve been working on a sequel to Beautiful Monster, and I was so wrapped up in getting my main character through a difficult scene that I completely tuned out my environment. My oldest daughter had been talking to me about helping her out and watching my grandson when I left this universe for the one I’d created. She continued talking to me for an extended time, but realized that I was no longer part of her reality. At that point, she began reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb to me, and I didn’t actually clue in until she started singing it. Without even realizing it, I had agreed to babysit for the better part of two afternoons before my daughter realized I’d checked out. Naturally, she held me to my promise to watch her son.
You’d think by now my family would be used to this, but I guess used to it or not, they still get annoyed by it. I’d like to tell them I can change, but the truth is, the only way I’m going to change is if I give up writing . . . forever . . . and that’s about as likely to happen as a tidal wave in the Sahara. I’ve given up writing once. By choice even. It wasn’t a good outcome. I’d much rather have a root canal without anesthesia than go through the pain and withdrawal caused by not writing. Just the thought of not writing makes me anxious and jittery, so you can imagine how bad it would be to actually stop!
I’m trying to stay a little more grounded though. It would be bad to drift off into my own Never Never Land while watching my 2-year-old grandson. That has disaster written all over it.
I’m also trying to be present with my family. Even though I’m really not choosing my own reality over them, they don’t necessarily understand the distinction. I can appreciate their feeling that they somehow take second place to my make-believe friends and family, even though that clearly isn’t the case. But they’ve all compromised a great deal for me to follow my dream. The least I can do is give them my full attention. Well, to the best of my ability anyway.
So if you happen to come by for a visit, or we meet up somewhere at a conference, don’t be offended if I suddenly go glassy-eyed and appear to be deaf. It’s not you. It just means I’ve slipped into my own world again. I’ll be back soon. Or if you can find your way in, you’re welcome to join me!