(Written on my smart phone from Tower Grove Park basking under the glorious canopy of trees as they whisper to each other)
Before my daughter Anne Marie grew up and went away to college we would play this game. We would go places and observe the people around us. Sitting at Pasta House for instance we would spot an uncategorizeable group of people and we would make up stories about them. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes sad, sometimes scary or other-worldly but always entertaining. We would use our imaginations and create this web of back stories whereupon the unknowing participants were magical or super spies or even just like us.
We would try to encourage our friends to get involved but mostly they just looked at us like we were crazy. Maybe we were but we loved it. We had been telling each other stories since Anne Marie was three years old and we walked or took a bus everywhere we went. Anne was the best story-teller when she was unencumbered by self limiting doubts and societal constrictions. She had (still has) this amazing mind that could find a story of princesses and fairies in a leaf falling from a tree or a ray of sunshine through the living room drapes.
I still play the game by myself, sometimes sub-consciously. Today I spotted a beautiful brand new shiny Porsche convertible parked in the handicapped spot at a White Castle and my mind was off and running. Once when I had made a wrong turn I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a huge (seriously like refrigerator sized) box sitting curb-side in front of a nondescript ranch style house. The box was filled to overflowing with shiny gold trophies waiting for the garbage men. It made me so sad. What was the story there? If I couldn’t find out the real one then I would make one up.
Small and large things inspire me. My inspirations come from everywhere. The alzheimers disease of a loved one and her family’s struggle to come to terms with it, observing two people who appeared to have some very unresolved feelings for each other re-connect unexpectedly in a coffee shop, watching a woman walk down the street with her head down, thick dirty fingernails scratching her arm encased in a woolen sweater in eighty degree weather – these are the places from which I get some of my best inspirations. Blow a little fairy dust and “poof” I’m transported for a little while to a magical world of words and stories with endings, sometimes happy and sometimes not. But then that’s life right? To me I imagine that my absolute joy at finding just the right descriptive word or the perfect turn of phrase is similar to how my sister Debbie, an amazingly talented painter, feels when she puts brush to canvas and creates the perfect stroke.
There are stories all around us just waiting to be told. Everywhere you look there is history, life, sadness, happiness, loneliness or grief. One of my favorite stories on this blog is “There’s a Story in the Lines of our Faces”. It shows heart and courage and heroism in a completely unexpected place – an elderly couple at a Panera having coffee.
Sometimes I find something I want to write about but I want it to percolate for a while or it isn’t convenient to stop and write but I let it sit too long and I lose the thread. Often I will find that something has touched me emotionally but when it comes to writing about it I lose my courage. A good writer is fearless and unafraid of repercussions. I don’t know if I will ever be that good of a writer.
Sometimes I am on FIRE! I write quickly with assurance only pausing to find the right turn of phrase and then barreling ahead full speed only to re-read it later and scratch the whole thing. My stories sometimes only have a beginning a middle or an end and I struggle for a while to fill in the empty spaces around it. I have so many beginnings, middles and ends that I have never completed. I look at some of them sometimes and think I should scrap it but I’m a writer and those are my words, my thoughts or my impressions and I just can’t let them go. Someday one of them might become a great novel. Well, probably not.
My genius Journalism Major daughter will tell you that grammatically and technically I’m not that great. My punctuation is atrocious but, in my opinion, I make up for it in passion and vocabulary. I write for myself because it makes me feel whole. Writing has become important to me, to my well-being and my sanity. I love the way it feels when I finish something and it sounds just right. I like it even more when people read my blog and like what I share. Just like a painter or a composer, a writer needs to know that her words are impactful and that they have touched someone or made them think. If you read something I have written and you have an opinion please let me know. Don’t be unkind I seriously lack confidence in my ability! Okay just kidding … sort of … I can take constructive criticism. I think.
I want to touch people. I want them to feel what the people in my stories feel. I watched my friend Lara read one of my stories with tears in her eyes once. My words touched her and there is no better compliment you can pay to someone who has created something than that. Another time she had a very visceral reaction of anger to one of my stories. That was a huge compliment because it meant that my words impacted her emotionally. I write for myself surely but I also do it for that reaction. My friend Rhonda says my words transport her to where I am while I’m telling the story and that is the greatest feeling for me.
So there’s a small glimpse into the mind of this writer. Thanks for riding today, please exit to the right when you leave the car and make sure you leave all of your valuables behind. You might find them in one of my stories someday.