Growing up, I lived in a poor community. Most people were farmers, and almost everyone who wasn’t worked as factory employees, had menial jobs or were unskilled labourers. So the general income level wasn’t very high. My father was an academic, a university professor and a research scientist. Although he wasn’t wealthy, with an income in the upper middle class range, in the village, by comparison to everyone else, he appeared super rich. And the kids always thought of us and referred to us as the dirty rich.
I remember, as a little girl, my mother always got me up very nicely whenever I went anywhere. I was like Carrie Anne Houghton. Even when I went out to play at the park, the other kids would be wearing the usual outfits kids wear to play in, T-shirts and shorts, that kind of thing. But my mother would always dress me in pretty dresses even just to go out to play.
Even to go to school, I always went stiffly done up in dressy blouses or fancy dresses, rather than what was considered more “normal attire” for a child my age.
Not surprisingly, that made life difficult for me. In addition to the stigma of always looking different from everyone else, it’s also not so easy to play in fancy dresses or long skirts. They’re not exactly the most adaptable kinds of outfits for traipsing around in a playground, climbing up ladders and trees or running around in the rain, all of which were activities which, like all kids, I loved to do.
Those long skirts would get in the way and get caught on everything when I tried to shinny up trees. Getting caught in a summer storm with my best friend, Bea*, who walked around much more practically dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, and instead of seeking shelter (like any sensible adult would have done), we stayed to run around in the rain and had a load of fun. The fact that I was wearing a pretty dress wasn’t a problem for me and didn’t bother me at all.
The problem came when we returned to Bea’s house and her mother hit the roof. Bea’s mother was aware of what a strict, iron-fisted disciplinarian my mother was, and she was terrified my mother would have a fit. Knowing what my mother was like, she was convinced my mother would never let me play with Bea again. Yes, just because Bea and I were playing in the rain.
(My mother did have a fit, not because I returned home looking like a drowned rat but rather because I arrived home late. My mother was very strict…… But then again that, and the wild adventures I shared with Bea, are fodder for future posts of an entirely different nature……)
I remember trying to climb up the ladder on some slides once and tripping over my long skirts all the time. (And in addition – velvet! Now I like velvet, but when I was a little girl, it was nothing but a right pain to romp around in playgrounds all dressed up in velvet!) I went up only once, tripping over the skirt with every step. And then when I got to the top, since the skirt was made of fuzzy velvet, it kept sticking to the metal sheet of the slide.
After only one attempt, the adults present made me sit down on one side for the rest of the afternoon and just watch as the other kids had a blast and had the time of their lives, while the only thing I got was to sit still and miss out on all the fun! I cried and cried and cried. (I was a very little kid at that time.)
That, basically, was the story of my entire childhood. Seemed my parents did everything within their power to make sure I never got to play. But as I’ve said before, that’s fodder for a different post.
As a child, I hated walking around looking like a miniature-sized adult. But now as a grown woman, I realize I really do appreciate my mother’s good taste and elegance. For a long time I used to hang out with hippies and as you know, hippies, in general, aren’t very well dressed or elegant.
But now I’ve become aware of how stunning my mother really could be when she wanted to. Her tastes were more classical than mine. After all I’m a Sagittarian so a bit eclectic. But now I realize how much she could teach me and has taught me about how to be elegant, how to have class, how to look and act like a lady.
As a child I didn’t care for that sort of thing. But now, as an adult, I realize how important it really is. It really is important for a woman to look and act elegant. To exhibit good taste in everything, from the way you look to the way you behave and act towards other people. After all, no one likes to hang out with a pig.
I can see, reading over this post, that there’s a lot more autobiography in Patricia than I realized. When you write, ideas just come to you, and you don’t wonder or question where they come from. But of course, these ideas and memories are always there. Always within you, inside your mind. In your unconscious. And they come to the surface when you do things like write stories.
* not her real name
This weekend we had a long weekend, and I felt like spending it all holed up at home working on the novella. In the end, the kids were jumping up and down like jacks-in-the-box from being cooped up all the time, so I had to take them out.
However, I spent all the time we were out, bristling with impatience and yearning with the desire to get back home and continue writing!
And that made me ponder: isn’t it an irony that the more exciting the stories in our minds get, the more boring our OUTER life seems to become?
When we’re working on those most exciting moments on paper, we squirrel ourselves up in our homes and refuse to go out and live adventures in “real” life.
But, of course, the reason it’s possible to make up exciting adventures on paper at all, is precisely because we DO go out and live exciting adventures in real life. And thus find inspiration and things to actually TELL.
I suppose it’s always possible to tell exciting tales even if we never do anything exciting in real life. It’s not necessary, to be able to invent exciting events, to actually live them, thanks to the force of our IMAGINATION, which allows us to make up anything and everything that we want.
But the truth is, quite frankly, life IS more exciting and interesting when we actually DO live exciting events in real life.
I wonder if I had lived a boring life, and had never done anything worth talking about, would I still have all the frenetic ideas and inspiration that I do have to write stories with? I think I’ve gotten many ideas simply from things that I’ve actually LIVED and EXPERIENCED, and I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me to receive these ideas if I hadn’t actually LIVED them.
When I was very young, I used to live a very boring, monotonous, mundane life. My life consisted only of predictable routine and more predictable routine. Nothing untoward ever happened. Everything in my life was carefully controlled, as if I lived in a hermetic bubble or in a laboratory environment, with all the factors and variables meticulously under control. (It’s hardly surprising that my parents were scientists who spent their whole lives stuffed behind the hermetic walls of a laboratory, where absolutely everything you could think of was controlled, even the amount of light or air allowed to enter!)
We never went out, and my parents and I spent all our days locked up at home. We didn’t go travelling, or even on day trips to the countryside or to visit a neighbouring village. My parents never went on holiday. We never went to the park, or boating, or swimming, or skiing or anything else that other people do.
The only excitement I ever enjoyed in my life was whatever I was able to invent in my head. In stories. And I thought that that, just with IMAGINATION alone, would be enough. I would be able to invent all the stories I would ever want or need. I thought that imagination in and of itself sufficed.
But I’m sure you can understand that when you live such an excruciatingly, extremely monotonous existence, where you even know just exactly at what minute your next meal would be served each day, or where you were going to go tomorrow (ie. nowhere), that someday the undeniable, irrepressible desire, the frenetic yearning, to get out and get away, would just have to explode.
You can’t keep people cooped up in cages like in a zoo or in a laboratory their whole lives! And much less children and young people, who have never lived anything yet or experienced anything in life yet.
So by hook or by crook I just HAD TO escape. In any way, shape or form.
And that’s when I really started living!
And once I started actually living, did I find that that occurrence had any positive influence on the writing I did, or on the stories I was able to make up?
As I LIVED life, for real, all sorts of things happened to me that I would never ever ever have even fathomed or dreamt of. Things that it would never have occurred to me to invent in a story, not even in a thousand years.
So, in the end, do I believe that it’s necessary to actually live life, to be able to write stories about life? Well, yes and no.
I do still maintain that, up to a certain extent, you can do most anything with just your imagination.
But I can assure you, your writing and your stories would become about a hundred times richer, more varied and full of exciting events, if you actually live things and experience things for yourself.
Life will probably throw curveballs at you that you would never ever ever have dreamt of, but that will serve you well in your stories.
And as usual, since you know I’m not just writing a blog for the sake of writing a blog, you know I’m going to end by simply exhorting you to buy my stories, so many of which, as I mention in this post, are based on real life. You can do so here: