Imaginary Playmates

Writers are a different breed of people. Much like other artists they tend to use their minds in another way. They think differently. They have wild imaginations. So what’s it like growing up with such an imagination? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you about myself.

As a child, I was very much alone. I was the last child and probably the oopsie baby even though no one ever would admit to it. My brothers were grown men and my sister had quite a few years on me. So I grew up very much alone. Even the neighborhood failed to provide a playmate. In spite of being rural, there were several houses near me but if they contained children, they were much older.

Also TV was not something that ran all day long. There were a few Saturday morning shows I was allowed to watch.  So I learned to entertain myself. I had dolls, and all sorts of things that had once belonged to my brothers. No one said I could only play with dolls so I played with everything. I also loved to be outdoors where I was free to roam, play in the dirt, and pretty much do anything I wanted. Compared to being inside where I was supposed to be quiet, the outdoors became my haven.

girlinswingMy only problem was I had no one to share my house under the forsythia bush or my chalkboard. As soon as I learned to read, I devoured books.  I climbed the pine tree and pretended I was on a tall masted ship or high on a mountaintop. Outside, my imagination took me anyplace I wanted to go. Inside? I’d retire to my turret in the great castle, hide under my bed in the dungeon, or pretend I was a school teacher to my dolls.

Then we finally got neighbors with children. The children were younger so I read books to them, and taught them to read, write and do math. Funny thing was I really did teach them. By the time they went to school, they were way ahead of their peers. I got told to stop teaching them, but I never did. The problem was they didn’t quite share my imagination. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that I was different and different wasn’t good.

I hide my imaginary playmates, but to me they were quite real. As I grew up, they grew up, but they never left me. I learned to box them up and only let them out when I needed them.  They kept me company usually in that last bit of my day as I readied for bed.

Looking back on all of it, I can see how my dysfunctional family played a huge role in my keeping these imaginary people in my life. The imaginary friends were normal when nothing else was. Instead of being ten years old, I could safely be an adult and on my own, away from my family and the craziness. I could do anything I wanted and be whatever I wanted to be.

I knew of no one who had these “people” in their heads, but I also figured out that I wasn’t alone. Turn on the TV. Did people just pull these shows out of nothingness? Didn’t someone actually write a script, and create a whole world in which these characters played? I knew wasn’t alone, it took thought to make those TV shows, but I had no outlet for what roamed in my head. I had to survive in the real world and that meant never letting on I had “people” in my head that didn’t really exist.

My parents’ marriage was falling apart and I became my mom’s whipping boy. My dad would get angry with her and take it out on me. Staying away from the house helped. Staying out of sight helped. I also hid my personal life away from the house. I was barely thirteen when I met someone I liked. He was about nine years older and in college studying to be a doctor. I said something to my mom about him and from her reaction, I knew never to mention him again. I was very good at not mentioning things and I realized that dating, in general, was best left hidden. She caught me once jumping in the car with him and somehow I danced my way out of that or I would have been grounded until I was thirty-five.

Truthfully his home life  life was probably as screwed up as mine and that bonded us even more. By the time I was fifteen, I was seriously dating him. At seventeen, when I graduated from high school with almost two years of college credits under my belt, he asked me to marry him and I turned him down. Deep in my heart, I knew he wasn’t the man for me.  He used to tell me to write and put my characters onto paper. (I later learned that psychology is known for telling people to write as a way of balancing their lives.) But these characters were too personal to turn loose.

When I did marry, well actually before I married, I warned my husband-to-be that I had “people” in my head. I figured it is important for him to know that I harbored a crazy side. He just laughed and told me not to worry about it. They weren’t controlling me or making me do strange things.

Then I was somewhere in my twenties and going through a very difficult time when I realized my characters were no longer there and that bothered me. Wow! Did they return. You want us back? Yes. My stress level dropped, my mood shifted, and I felt more focused. I even slept better. Then I started writing books for my children.

The freedom to create characters and put them into words was amazing. I had no clue how to publish a book back then. I vaguely knew that you had to type it a dozen times, then go to New York and schlep around to all the publishing houses with the hopes that someone would give you two minutes of their time. It wasn’t possible for me to do any such thing.

My girls got older and I went to work with the idea that what I made would offset the cost of their college education. That didn’t leave me any time to write. It wasn’t until my first granddaughter was born that I went back to the idea of writing books. I was determined I would succeed. Ireturned to college and took those English classes I had CLEPed and as many other English classes as I could at the local college.

Then my girlfriend’s daughter called me. She’s a known romance author and said write romance. (There’s a whole story there.) And so I shifted from the idea of writing for children to writing romances. Today I corral those characters, rein them in, and make them obey me. I utilize them. Do I still have any of those original “people” up there? Oh yeah! And no, I’ll never write their stories. They are all breathing sighs of relief! 🙂

I can say I have an active muse. Wish I had known what it was when I was still young and I wish I had known what to do with it.  Of course I’ve reached that point in my life where I don’t feel as though I have to apologize to anyone for the way I am. I can also hold my head up and proudly say I have a muse.  A muse and two bucks will buy a cup of coffee. Writing a book takes lots of  love, sweat, and tears.

But when I spot a review for what I’ve written, my heart wants to sing. Here’s my latest review for A Rancher’s Woman. Thank you Amazon Customer for the wonderful review! You really made my day!








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