What it means to me …
There is a poster above the desk in my bedroom. It is a piece of paper that has gone through the wars of childhood and the title of the picture was cut off long ago when torn edges were trimmed down due to tearing from tape on the corners. It’s survived storage units and the back of closets and even now, it hangs by only three corners – the top right faces an open window and the wind keeps knocking the push pin out of its place. It has never been framed, though that is probably the next step; it is “laminated” with the use of packing tape – a last ditch effort made to save it when I was in college. The story is told without a single word. Instead of some catchphrase about following one’s dreams, there is a little girl staring into a storybook mirror, a coloring book and well-loved doll at her feet. She faces away from the viewer, so we see through her eyes, but it is clear her hands are raised to her mouth. Waving at the little girl through the mirror is Snow White and her Seven Dwarves.
That, to me, is writing.
Writing means that someone still sits down with quill, pen, typewriter, or laptop, and puts the worlds in their mind into physical form. Someone sets a world and the characters within it free. Someone wanders into a land where wild things roam, elves chase after rings, and women reconcile their pasts during summer visits to lighthouses. Someone made it so a little girl could stare into the mirror and see not herself, but the character she so wanted to be. Writing is the chance to be that girl in the mirror.
Writing means I get to write down the stories I used to tell myself while sitting on the bus on the ride to school. I bring to this world the story that kept me sane while I was stocking apples and cutting fruit. When I write, I enter the home of the character who spoke to me on a long, gray walk to work. That walk is a blur, except for the moment when I looked up from my conversation with the character in my head, and found myself standing in front of an empty office building. I still slow down when I walk by that building.
At times, the mechanics of writing seem too much. When I finish a story and I’m working through the workshopping and submission process, sometimes all I can think is how nice it would be to just write for writing’s sake. I do share stories and articles through my blog, but that free service does not pay my bills. I have to go to work and focus on that rather than on the stories in my head. So I daydream during meetings and hope no one catches me writing at my computer. Like most writers, I sleep with notebooks under my pillow.
I still look into the mirror and see Snow White looking back at me. She takes the forms of my characters – a rock star here, a horse rancher there. I glance over my shoulder and see elves dancing and musicians singing and a young basketball player who is on the brink of losing everything, all because he zigged when he should have zagged.
I write because I dream. Because I will always be that little girl in that poster. I’ll always be looking through mirrors and writing down what I see.