Once Upon a Time

self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life, Writing

Once Upon a Time, when there was such a thing as extra time, (I used to call it Free Time, back when I believed that such a thing existed. Now I know that it just isn’t so. You have to pay for it one way or another.) I used to be a fiction writer.

It began innocently enough. Sitting and twirling my swing, I shared stories and adventures with my imaginary friend in the side yard of the old clapboard house of my youth. She listened with great interest and never interrupted. In time, illustrations followed and the stories grew in depth and character.

When we moved into a country farmhouse during my middle school years, I created paper doll people and paper doll cut-out villages to go with my stories and the world that my characters lived in. They took up residence in my bedroom closet. As my clothes were strewn about the floor, there was plenty of room there and every day after school I would join them on the closet floor, and create for them a brand new world. Their lives were full of adventures. They were sassy and talked back. I never did. They traveled the world and saw everything. I lived in a town where all the kids went to school on the same bus. They wore exotic clothes and were popular and had bright shiny hair and flashing, expressive eyes. My stringy dishwater brown hair hung in my dull brown eyes, shielding me to hide my shyness.

We moved again, (and again, and again) making the process of building lasting friendships a difficult one. I was friendly, yet uncommitted. My head was either buried in reading a book or writing a book. I lived inside the pages of fantasy. Inspiration came from reading every book I could get my hands on. When I did need to relate to someone, it was easy to pull out a character and try it on for whatever situation needed to be handled. The first inklings and seeds of the actress began to grow within.

By the time I arrived at high school, my first novel had been completed and sat buried in the bottom of my t-shirt drawer. Along with it was another complete series of shorter stories, all bound together, adventures of middle school girls trying to survive their way through the popular world of junior high, while being different. A book of poetry sat on top of my desk, never put away-because it was added to, almost daily.

One day, I peeked out from behind a page and saw a strange world standing before me. High School was a bustling, harsh place to be, especially for someone who had mastered zero social skills. A refuge for others like myself welcomed me in the theater department. There, for the first time, I met others who shared my traits. Actors, writers, dreamers, artists–people who believed that what you could see in your mind could be more real than what was standing before you. I had come home into a family of my own. I wasn’t different anymore.

The high school years of theater and writing classes and having teachers who molded my skills were a wonderful-if not way too short- time of my life. Actually, truthfully, I hated all of it except the part where I could get to the writing and the acting. Everything else was impatiently tolerated until I could dive back in to the deep well of creativity and be immersed again in the flow of talent that surrounded me.

Then life took an abrupt shift. Choices made became a direction turned and I moved forward into becoming a mother and learning the life lessons of living in the REAL WORLD. Not much room for fiction there…

I have kept the creativity in my life. I have had to. I stayed in my community theater, learned to paint. It has been hard to find that balance over the years, and there have been many lessons learned about what happens to my spirit when I let it die back. Hint: It isn’t a pretty thing. I need it like I need air.

But the fiction writing took a seat way in the back of the bus. After spending so much time NOT in reality, I had needed to find a way to become authentic. Figure out who the real Wendi was. NOT a fiction character chameleon that could shape-shift on a dime, but the real deal. What was important to me, where were MY boundaries, what were the consistencies and the threads that bound my spirit through the ages of my life. The unchangeables? The areas that I needed to grow and cultivate? The areas that I needed to prune and cut away?

A lot of those questions have been answered over the decade that has been my forties. Hurray for the 40’s for there is time to look in the mirror. At least there has been for me. And now that I can see myself standing there, myself, my true self, not the self that I shifted into for the sake of others, I can see that she is writing fiction again.

It started out innocently enough. First little stories I had been imagining in my head. Then just a few chapters of a story idea that I jotted down in a file on the computer. Then one day, a title of a children’s book, so I wrote that down too. With a few paragraphs to follow. Then a few days later, a few more pages for that. Gosh…a few more chapters of that first book were floating around up there. So I wrote them down too.

Now Men with Pens have an on-line Escape from Reality  fiction story writing group and I have a character there. (You can follow along if you like, but fair warning…its so darn good and fun, it’s addictive!) 

The ideas and the story lines and the characters are all coming back home, as if they have been gone for a very long holiday. I welcome them back with a bit of apprehension. I have real-life responsibilities now. I’m not that free-time little girl who can afford to live up in her head. I have a family to take care of and a blog to write and a REAL world to live in now. It would be very easy to slip away, fall down the rabbit-hole and become vaguely lost to the happenings around me. I don’t want to do that. I love my real-time life. My family and friends are an enormous part of my happiness and joy.

This will be the first time I will try to honestly face the world of fiction writing with balance and structure. I know its been done by others . I don’t know how to do it. Quieting the stories at inappropriate times when there is a story happening in your head and all you want to do is grab a pen and write it down? In the middle of making dinner or entertaining guests? Agh…I think I have shut it down for a long, long time out of fear for situations just as that. How do I be in two places at once?

It is going to be interesting.  (shaking my head) Help!!

I’m taking any and all thoughts and suggestions here…..comments? I’m quite sure my family would appreciate your help too!


19 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time

  1. I know just how you feel!! Just before this world of blogging came into the picture I was re-writing, as you know, old stories. The ideas are there in my head, but like you, the real world doesn’t leave much room for “free” time!

    Make you a deal, you keep writing and I’ll keep writing and if nothing else, we can keep each other entertained!!

  2. I think you’re lovely. People like you, Wendi, are the very people that Harry and I made this game for – because we know just what it feels like to shut the box on our creativity, and how easy it is to get caught up in the crap we call real life. It hurts.

    So open the box, Pandora. Because you know you want to 🙂

  3. Yes, it has always been a passion. If I don’t get the pen to paper, it is just crazy voices talking in my head. Best to write it down. Controlling it?

    Hehehe, I think that’s what my ADHD meds are for.

    Balance? Might be that one elusive thing I work on forever.

  4. James,

    Welcome to LLI, how nice it is to have you here! Funny that its the first time, that seems wierd, but I’m glad you have arrived at last.

    Lovely. What a nice word to be described as. I thank you for that. It is nice to be considered lovely. 🙂

    Your game is so much more than a *game* James. It is chance to stretch out our creative wings and fly again, or for some, perhaps for the first time, in a space that is safe and nurturing, encouraging and helpful. There is instruction and learning by gentle guidence and there is learning by writing side by side with pure genious talent.

    It is an opportunity and a gift. I thank you for that too. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

    Consider Pandora’s box opened. Now are you going to help me keep my sanity whilst it stays open?

  5. Jenny. Write. Keep writing. and grow that skill.
    I know I won’t stop. Don’t you do it either. And if you want to see some amazing talent at work. Go check out Escape from Reality. I know you will love it.

  6. Hi Wendi! I’m a lot like you, tending to want to bury myself in whatever creative project I’m currently most involved with. Right now it’s Escaping Reality. It is addictive, isn’t it? I feel guilty for having so much fun there but then I remind myself I’m working on my skills too. Ha! And, I’m working on balancing fiction writing with Real Life. Then again, who says fiction isn’t real. It’s just… fiction.

  7. Isn’t wonderful, as you get a *little* older, to discover the real you, rather than “the self that I shifted into for the sake of others”.

    I don’t know how many people feel like this – maybe there are some really with it people who always knew what they wanted and didn’t allow others to lead them from that path – but for me it took a long time just to learn to listen to my own voice, much less understand what that voice was saying.

    I think others, especially your family, also benefit from you following your passions… in moderation of course! Good luck 🙂

  8. Rebecca,

    Welcome! I don’t know very many who find their own voice at a young age. I think life is a process of growing into ourselves and becoming comfortable with accepting who we are, who we were put here to be.
    I do agree that when you do begin to reach that place, those around you benifit.

    With balance!

    Glad to have you here, come often and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  9. I gave it up so long ago that I fear I can no longer gather the thoughts together to put them on paper.

    I am hoping to regain some creativity over the July Mio trip to start me at least journaling again.

    I came across a set of books for use by teachers, to help them getting students to start writing assignments and conversations . I hope to begin there, resurrecting my ability put together a cohesive thought.

    So if you find how to keep the discipline, Wendi, you fill me in.

    The tools to keep you from forgetting what you come up with?

    Non-spiral bound notebooks so that you can jot an idea or phrase or thought down and rip it out. Then you put it into a pocket binder so that you can have a few things going at once. One in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, one whereever you spend time., esp the car. And a packet of mechanical pencils. They are inexpensive and you can afford to have one with each notebook.

    Plus if your family is truly wanting to help you in setting a discipline, then you have to find a place or time each week, preferably every day, (yeah, right) that is set aside for you to tackle a thought or two. If it’s so easy, why can’t I seem to do it, huh?

    Anyway, Mrs. Kelly, more power to you!

  10. you don’t have to write on your blog everyday or commit to read all of ours, just once in a while when you have time.

    But stop what you’re doing (when safe to do so) to write down a thought or two.

    I think your childhood paper doll people story would be just the perfect background for a story to get the creativity rolling. It’s pretty easy to combine your memories with creativity and have a solid background for the story.

    I wrote a quite short story about fantasy vs. reality as a kid in my Love and Robots story http://99daz.com/love-and-robots/

    here’s the first bit…

    “The first time I saw her she was standing in the general vicinity of where the bus would pick us up, she had a slight scowl and looked uncomfortable in her new school uniform.

    They required us British kids to wear a uniform at St. Georges School in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

    I said hello and told her the bus would probably come in 5 or 10 minutes. Then my sister started talking to her and I got back into human-resistance mode, after all, the situation was critical, the damn Meganoids had over-ran the colonies on Alpha-3 AND the Ajaxian Empire, sentient robots, continued to fight in the Uranium-rich asteroids of Quadrant X. I had enough to think about. My parents had just got divorced.”

  11. Enjoyed this post and found it made me think about my own writings. Perhaps I “live” within my writings (certain story lines) too much, Wendi. However, they are the only things that keep the dark at bay during my Bipolar cycles. Having no family to care for and living alone, makes a difference. It allows me more time to write on line, in journals, etc.
    Enjoyed all the replies this time ’round. At this late stage, you well know I am not about growing my skill or garnering a readership. However, for those here who are true writers, I applaud your passion and determination to reach your individual goals.
    May never know in the future, when buying a book, that one of you is the author. Still, what a wonderful experience for each of you to find your creativity, bound and on a shelf awaiting a loyal reader!
    Blessed Be, all of you wonderfully gifted people.
    Ms. O
    No writer. Perhaps a simple Muse.

  12. Ms O,
    Being one of your loyal readers of your stories and knowing the Realness and well roundedness of your charactors and settings, I think many of could learn from your skills. You DO have a following!

    Please don’t ever sell yourself short in the gifted department! You ARE a writer!

  13. Wendi,

    What an insightful post.

    I’ve wandered in and out of Once-Upon-a-Times, too, so I can definitely relate. One thing that I try to keep in mind is that though there may be more obviously fertile times and other times that seem unproductive, that part of Who You Are is always coloring your days. Whether you’re writing the great novel or not may not be as important, if you are making creativity part of your world every day as I know you do.

    My tip is to use your cell phone’s record function (they’ve almost all got one, buried somewhere) if you’re out and about, or get a little recorder you can stick in a pocket and walk around with. I have one with a mic you clip to your shirt; it’s voice activated or you flip a switch, so if you’re cooking alone you can stir, stir, speak when the idea comes without reaching for the button, but if you’re with family you can flip the switch only when you want to record and not have every word you said to your nephew to sort through later. (“Honey, just fill the muffin tins halfway, okay? Or the oven’s going to be a disaster.”)

    If it weren’t for my daughter, I could be very happy with falling down the rabbit-hole and becoming vaguely lost to the happenings around me. I love that kind of time. 🙂



  14. Wendi,
    Thanks for posting this. I enjoy writing, but I’ve found I’m not very good at it yet. Since I have a non-writing-related “real life” job (which I also enjoy), I’ve found that I don’t have much time to write, either.
    EscapingReality is one of a few things that has started getting me back into writing, and I’ve enjoyed learning from you, and from the others on the game boards. I really appreciate the post here, because I often have stories that bounce around in my head, but rarely ever have the chance to actually work on them.

  15. Hi Wendi,

    Hey, I’m glad Men with Pen’s fiction site is helping you get back on track. I told them I’d look into it, but I just don’t have the time! I write my novel in the morning and work (well novel writing is “work” too, I guess it depends on how you define it) and try to make some money during the day! Let us know how it goes. It sounds very 3D. I also love theatre. I’m a great actress. Especially Shakespearean. E

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