When I was a teenager, and I'd waited until the last possible minute to do the dishes before my single mother would come back home after being out trying to find a husband, I'd pretend I was a spurned wife. I would act out a scene. I was the stay at home wife or wife that had happened downtown and saw my husband out with another woman, kissing, holding, whatever betrayal he committed, and I would be waiting for him. Doing the dishes and ready to pounce, then I'd imagine him walking in, and I'd ask him what he'd done that day, luring him into the lie, ready to smash him with the truth that I'd discovered earlier that day. I'd yell, I'd argue, I'd say horrible things and bring myself to tears with the real emotion that I had conjured up thinking of how hurt I would be that my husband did this to me. I think I was about 15 years old.
Then when I was in college, and the invention of cell phones was so new that I had one that only held 180 minutes/month that I primarily used for emergencies and when I'd make the trek from Austin to Dallas to visit my family, I have elaborate conversations. With my boyfriend, parents, friends, boss, whoever I could think of and I'd create situations or conflict to discuss.
Then when my husband I were searching for our home together, I'd make up stories about the families that lived in the house and why they were selling. I'd look for clues; the master closet would be empty on one side, or the bedside table was full of stuff while the matching one on the other side was empty. Divorce, cheating, drama. That's what I would create. If there weren't enough in my already crazy life, I'd create stories and arguments, heartache, betrayal.
I don't remember making up fun or happy stories. Maybe there was more emotion or punch to the scenes in my head when I could yell and tell my imaginary husband that I never wanted to see him again.
I tried writing stories when I was even younger. I got a large spiral notebook and would decide on a name and what my character looked like, blah, blah and then nothing. I had no story; I tried to write about my life but I was boring, and I didn't know what to write that was interesting, and I got bored with it.
So in my 30s, I had come back to two loves that I left when I was young. In my youth, I gave up the idea that I would be a writer and I gave up on a legal profession. Now over 20 years later, I am doing both. I am doing them better than I could have during my naive youth and I'm grateful that my experiences stimulate my stories.
Now, I write or think about stories and then quickly write them down while I'm waiting at the traffic light, singing in church, spending time with my family, driving, waiting, and in the silence, I think about stories. I write my ideas down; I record my ideas, and I think about my ideas.
For me, I have to get the story down while it's fresh or it will evaporate. And when I have the time to put the story on the page, I usually have 20-30 records of ideas or scenes for the stories. Sometimes I listen to them if I've forgotten a part but most of the time, I 've been thinking about it and plotting the scenes that when I write it, it just flows out of me. I don't do much else but write. I stop begrudgingly to go to the restroom, to eat, to pick my kids up from school, to live beyond the story in my head.