What if…?

Most of my childhood memories involve sitting high up in trees, keeping company with the bees. Holding on to swaying branches, I gazed out towards the horizon, looking for…something. I remember each house (and there were many) by the trees in the yard, or in the neighbourhood, and how far you could see from the top.

IMG_2654I was a daydreamer, and a worrier. What if…[insert problem here]? All the same, my childhood was happy – I learned piano and had horse-riding lessons, played with my sisters and roller-skated with my friends. It just seemed like there was a lot to think about.

As I got older, I worked, travelled, and was lucky and unlucky in love. I didn’t climb trees any more, but I was still constantly looking towards the horizon. Then – at last! – I found myself in the right place at the right time, and I met The Right Guy. When we started our little family, I had to spend less time with my head in the clouds. But the daydreaming had to go somewhere. Every time I took our two little boys to the library, I looked at the fiction shelves, full of books of all kinds. And the thought crept in: Someone has to write all those books…if they can do it, maybe I could too. What if I tried?

So after years of editing and proofreading other people’s work, and writing corporate, no-nonsense articles, I took the plunge. It was scary and daunting and I kept it very secret. I mean, who did I think I was, trying to be a writer? I snuck away to writers’ group meetings, conferences and workshops. And at one, an encouraging author said: “Writing is work, whether you are published or not.”

So I kept at it. Oh, it was agonising. The editor in me fussed over words and phrases and drove me mad. I struggled to wrestle the plot into shape. I missed fun family outings and stayed up too late night after night. But at the same time, it was utterly magical. Where did these people come from, with their opinions and jokes and flaws? They constantly surprised me with the things they decided to do and say. When the story got stuck, I wondered, well, what if…? And sooner or later, the answers came.

Finally, I finished. Well, I thought it was finished. It went for critique, then there was rewriting, and editing, and polishing. Then – miracle! I really had finished a book. I could do it!

It seems to me now that the things that make life more difficult day to day – overthinking, second-guessing, being uncomfortably aware of every little nuance – are the very things that give writers an advantage.

What if…?

If that little girl in the treetops had known what an excellent question it is, she might have worried a little less.

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