As a kid, when I was on the bus or on the playground, I would daydream madly. I don’t mean I had mad daydreams, I mean simply that it was all I wanted to do. The teachers learned early on not to seat me near the windows. Any little distraction would cause a mini movie to play inside my head, visible and audible only to me, requiring my complete and total attention.
I could be absolutely riveted by rivulets of water on a rainy day. I would be instantly transferred into a scene that involved a small boat, a river, and an alligator. Just as the alligator was getting sucked into a whirlpool, the teacher would call my name and forcibly remove me from my creation.
Daydreaming doesn’t work well while on a bustling playground, either, nor did it mix well with any sports related activities. Right in the middle of whatever was going on, my mind would just drift off into the ether.
My height prompts people who meet me now to ask if I played basketball in my youth. I tell them no, and explain that I simply didn’t have the coordination to play basketball safely. And that’s true. But the deeper truth is that I didn’t have the attention span. While people were running all around me, screaming, etc., I’d be standing still in the middle of the court until I was jolted out of whatever internal show happened to be cued up in my head at the time.
Getting hit with a basketball delivers quite a punch.
As I got older I started thinking that maybe I should write some of those stories down. I thought it might be fun to come back and read them when I got old. I may have even gotten rich. In fact, several great stories were written by me before they were ever written by anyone else and then got turned into movies. In fourth grade science class, for example, Teacher got an aquarium and filled it with an iguana and some turtles. I imagined Jurassic Park in my head. Only it was called, “The Day the Dinosaurs Escaped the Zoo.”
I think they pay people extra to come up with really great titles for stuff.
I did eventually start to write my stories on paper, several times, but I never followed through with it. Usually I just lost track of the notebook I’d started using. Or I simply lost interest. Writing about things wasn’t nearly as easy as just daydreaming about them. And writing about them only made me feel dumb. No one around me understood the compulsion I had to just create, to transfer those stories in my head to some other venue. And my biggest fear was that someone would find out, or find my notebook, and make even more fun of me. Being an already tortured kid is made worse when the kid manufactures the ammunition that she just knows will be used against her if discovered later. “Oh look! Jolly Green thinks she can write! Hahahaha!”
After high school, I made another attempt to keep track of some of those rambling thoughts and ideas with the intention of writing for real. I lost track of them, too. It didn’t keep me from writing, though. I just didn’t use paper. My daydreaming had already evolved into a form of head-writing. That’s not a phenomenon, I know, but it’s what was happening to me. In the shower, in the car, sitting in front of something boring on television – wherever I was or whatever I was doing, I was writing about the experience in my head. I was telling the story to others in the way it should have been written if I were going to write about it at all. Yet no words escaped my pen.
I attended a writing conference last year where I got to meet a local columnist I’d admired for years. I think we’re about the same age, roughly, but she has a column, with her name on it, inside a well circulated and popular newspaper. And she writes what I write – daily life type stuff. It was such a thrill for me to meet her.
She gave my group some writing tips and shared the story of how she went from being somebody’s nobody secretary to having her name in the paper every week. One of the tips she gave us was to write down those random thoughts and ideas to come back to later when we were stuck for material. I really had tried doing that before, but since I’m all grown up now I thought I’d give it another try. And I did. For a while I faithfully wrote a few nonsensical words down on a slip of paper and put them in an envelope every time I had an idea and no time to write it out completely.
After a while I lost track of it.
I tried to find that envelope the other day when I was stuck for another blog post. I was certain that inside would be the inspiration for a novel. I imagined my fame when the movie hit theaters. I heard a grandchild giggle when people asked for an autograph.
I finally found the envelope and anxiously opened its large flap. There were two small, ragged, slips of paper inside. On one, in a barely legible cursive scrawl, were the words “graves and tombstones”.
I have no idea what that means.
And I could no longer read the other.