My writing journey began when I was a young girl – maybe eleven or twelve years old. I was deep in the thrall of Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and Lloyd Alexander, my head full of my own take on those wonderful stories. My relationship with writing started when I asked, “What if?”
What if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter? What if *I* attended Hogwarts? What if I lived on Prince Edward Island at the turn of the century? What if I lived in a kingdom like Prydain, surrounded by magic and cauldrons and prophetical pigs?
Now, I’m not saying the stories that came out of those questions were any good, but it sure was fun to try answering them. And more questions came up in their place, questions like “What would life be like for this character instead of me?” and “What if I were to invent my own kingdom? What would it be like?” Before long I was filling notebooks with my pretend kingdom’s name, geography, history, and culture. I was drawing characters (very badly) and naming them things like Spellsong and Chrysanthea.
While my drawing ability has remained much the same (i.e. horrible), I like to think my stories have improved since then, asking more complex questions and peopling their worlds with more complicated, interesting characters (sorry, Spellsong). Over time, though, it has also been harder to keep hold of the thrill I felt when planning a story as a kid.
Back then, it was all pure, unbridled joy and excitement at asking myself, “What if?” Now, after that first initial flash of inspiration, I find myself asking other “what if” questions instead: What if this story has already been written before, and written better? What if I can’t do justice to the idea in my head? What if these characters, this plot, this setting is boring, familiar, overdone?
What if I fail?
Not only do these questions make it extremely difficult to get words on the page, they tend to make those words stilted and horrible. They are a self-fulfilling prophecy, these doubts. So this year, I’m making a concerted effort to silence those questions, starting before the writing even begins.
Time to borrow back the excitement of planning a story from twelve-year-old me.