I used to think that everyone lay down at night and imagined stories in their mind before drifting to sleep. My routine each and every evening throughout my childhood and, if I’m honest, well into adulthood, was to create an amazing world I could slip into, characters who would be my new friends, and an intrigue that somehow only I, as the courageous heroine, could solve.
I think it was really the sheer and utter exhaustion that came with having a colicky baby in my mid-twenties that finally stopped me from my nightly storytelling ritual. (Parenthood has a way of depleting us of our own dreams as we trade them in for dreams of who our children might someday become.)
Telling stories to myself as I waited for sleep to come was so engrained in me that I never thought to ask anyone else if they did the same. I just assumed they did. It’s only recently that I realized the truth of it.
Most people don’t actually do this.
I haven’t done a formal poll, of course, but I’m willing to bet that internal storytelling is a trait reserved for the creatives—those who write, paint, photograph, and perform. These are the people who dream infinitely about what could be. These are the people who live in two worlds simultaneously.
Creative types have mistakenly been labeled as eccentric (or flat-out crazy) for centuries, but I don’t think most of them are. (There are exceptions, of course. Cutting off your own ear is pretty nutty.) They were simply living in two worlds at once, a feat not many can successfully accomplish or understand.
Creative minds like the great writers and artists throughout the years find a way to reconcile the physical world they live in with the world they’ve created in their minds. They switch back and forth between the two worlds effortlessly and when they’ve finished with a creation, they invite you to experience it, too. Just think of every movie you’ve fallen into, every book you’ve devoured, putting aside your thoughts of the “real” world and forgetting all your responsibilities. It’s the creative genius who’s invited you to his or her world to experience it along with them, to forget about your own life for a moment or two. And yet, your body hasn’t gone anywhere. You’re still curled up on the couch, book in hand, maybe sipping a cup of peach tea while you allow yourself to tag along with a main character through all his trials and tribulations.
I think it took me a shamefully long time to find my place in this world. I didn’t know, or maybe it was just that I didn’t understand, that people just like me really do write for a living. They tell stories. I spent years trying to convince myself to succeed in other careers – first science, then nonprofit work, before I gave in to the call of full-time writerhood.
Now that I’m here, I wonder. Why did I think that I needed to fit in anywhere else? Why did I waste so much of my energy trying?
(The obvious answer, of course, is that I needed to make a living. I needed an income to keep a roof over my head and food in my fridge. That part hasn’t changed, but with some adjustments to my lifestyle, I’ve managed to make things work…for now.)
Since reconciling the fact that I really am meant to write, that this is, indeed, a big part of who I am, I’ve been infinitely happier with myself, satisfied that I’ve finally found a home. My biggest lesson:
Never accept just one world if you’re meant to live in two!