Oh yeah, I got busted all right!
So what happened?
Quite simply, I felt like the kid who got caught with her hand in the cookie jar during a conversation with my daughter earlier this week.
Mel: Charlotte ate two meals yesterday
Me: Oh yeah
Mel: You’re not listening, are you?
Me: Yes, you said, ‘Charlotte ate two meals yesterday.’
(There was not the usual enthusiasm on my part.My granddaughter hasn’t shown a lot of interest in solids even now at nearly 10 months so, it’s kind of a big deal when she does eat.)
Mel: But you weren’t really listening. I could tell you were thinking about something else.
Me: (rather vaguely )I might have been.
Mel: *laughs* What were you thinking about? (She’s persistent if nothing else.)
Me: Who me? I might have been thinking about the story I’m working on.
So I got busted! I was definitely not engaged in our converstion. Usually I’m filled with enthusiasm when it comes to anything my granddaughter does.
Guess I’m not as good at covering up as I thought.
I’m not ashamed to admit that my mind wanders.
Just so you know, I don’t spend all my waking hours wrapped up tight in a reverie that I can’t tear myself away from. I can focus just as well as the next person. I can focus so well when I’m in the middle of writing a particular scene I lose all track of time.
Just don’t talk to me when I’m in the middle of make-believe.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time playing in the world of make-believe. I like to get to know my characters, feel their joys and their pain, find out what makes them tick. Hear their voice. We all did it as kids, we play-acted, made up stories, had tea parties with our teddy bears and dolls. We pretended to be our favourite action hero, the good guy who always prevailed. I mean, that’s what kids do don’t they? Is there anything more natural?
You’ll be glad to hear I don’t sit around with dolls and teddy bears these days (although something tell me I may again when Miss Charlotte gets a bit older) but that doesn’t mean I still don’t like to play make-believe. I’m a writer. I create worlds filled with make-believe.
But not all of my pretending is done on paper. A lot of my pretending takes place in my mind. You see that far away, deer-in-the-headlights look I sometimes wear, and that far away vague sound to my voice while on the phone, is for a reason.
I sometimes wonder if I don’t spend more time thinking about the characters I’m creating as I do writing about them. I’ve got to make them real. Make their words sound right. I’ve got to think about what he said and what she said, in my mind many times before I’m truly convinced. I have to step into my characters skin, feel their emotions, and yes, even pretend to be them.
But, don’t worry. I’m completely harmless. It just means that if I’m not hanging on your every word there may be a very good reason.
Here’s a question for the writers out there: Have you ever got busted for not paying attention while thinking about your character’s lives instead? Do you spend time playing games of make-believe with your characters or do you do all your pretending on the page?