Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why I Started Writing (Or how I couldn't stop making up stories in my head)

Two books (out of countless other favorites) contributed to my obsession with making up scenarios that were drastically different than my own with characters that were as real as me, only much cooler.
The first was:
I read this book. Lived this book. Turned to this book as if it would tell me the answers to never growing up and never having to Handle My Responsibilities (as my mother wished for). I mean, come on, who wants to stop playing outside with make-believe beasts and crowds of adoring fans (I had a Hannah Montana complex before Hannah Montana was ever thought of -  I was an only child), just to come in and wash the dishes, or worse: clean my room.  Every day! I had to have had the cleanest room in the neighborhood.
Anyhow, at the end of elementary school, I read this book and my life changed forever:

It was my life - literally (only the death wasn't my friend), my childhood best friend and I would disappear into the woods for hours on adventures. Though, we often pulled from movies we'd seen. For example, the cardboard key we made, then buried so we could 'find' it, because only the magic key would get us back to OZ as it did for Dorothy in Return to Oz. Or the time we watched The Worst Witch, and made a grimoire to hide in the woods, under a scrap piece of tarp and a sodden log for months. We would go back every weekend to cast spells and find even grosser ingredients than the week before (and there are some gross things in the forest, especially when you bottle them and leave them lying around for months on end). Why not bring the grimoire inside? Because the grimoire's power would only work in the creepiest parts of the forest, of course.
Then we read Bridge To Terabithia as a class in fifth grade and our forest adventures changed to stage tragic, heart-ripping-out-of-our-10-year-old-chests death scenes. Sounds morbid, but we were handling serious subject matter the way kids do - reenacting with our curious imaginations.
How could one ever return to household chores after days in the woods like those? I'll tell you. By creating multiple plot lines and characters in your head and living out tons of adventures in your mind while scrubbing plates, and spoons, and forks, and cups, and rinsing the dishes, and drying the dishes, and putting the dishes away.

Even today as I methodically load the dishwasher, load the washer and dryer, dust, and vacuum, my mind is like a movie projector screening an exciting adventure with characters I love (that don't have to stop to mop the floor!). All thanks to Maurice Sendak and Katherine Paterson! These two wonderful, visionary authors allowed me to tap into my creativity while everyone else just wanted me to Be Responsible.

And, though I do see the importance of keeping your room clean (and yes, I make my kids clean their room at least once a week), I eagerly take my kids into the woods for adventures whenever opportunity knocks (we no longer live by the forest like I did as a child, unfortunately):

***No responsibilities were neglected during the inspiration of my creative childhood. Though I do still fight with the dishwasher. :)

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