My current novel in progress is based on a magical land that my sister and I created as children. My senior year in high school felt tense and aimless. Some of my happiest moments were watching films like “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and the “Merlin” miniseries starring Sam Neil, mixing steampunk and Arthurian lore to create our fantasy land of wizards, giants, castles, and dragons. In free moments at school, I would sketch maps of the island and the crests of its aristocratic houses. Years passed, and of course adult responsibilities swamped me and I fell away from dreaming about magical lands.
The adult world only becomes hopeless when we lose touch with magic, when we forget to pause from our worries and duties to dream, play, and rest. Children do so regularly-adults are mindful, even, to encourage and schedule time for them to do so. But we receive the opposite message as adults, that we should always be busy. Life imposes this on us, and we impose this on ourselves, too.
Even though I have fallen away from my novel a few times over the years, it always seems to be waiting in my heart, to pipe up and say, “Hey! Over here!” when I most need to dream and play. The first time was in early 2020. My entire family fell ill, and we were all doing our best to care for each other. I often awoke from a shallow and impromptu nap to the sound of someone I love coughing, a reminder to dispense more cold and flu medicine. When everyone was settled in, I amused myself by looking at Pinterest images of vintage Laura Ashley catalog photography. A niche interest if ever there was one, but I love fashion and at the time had been binging articles about the trend in vintage clothing circles for authentic 1970s floor sweeping, floral printed Laura Ashely sundresses. The bucolic images of the countryside reminded me of the heroine of my story, and the place where she grows up.
Before I knew it, I was telling her story. I had struggled to do so before, but now the words flowed freely. The fun I had writing gave me the strength and mental flexibility to help my family recover, and to deal with the unfolding news of the global pandemic. After finishing up a very fun first draft, I started freelance writing and now write about lifestyle, entertainment, and sports for three separate online publications.
I would love for that to be the happy ending. But, life isn’t quite so simple. There was another plot twist in store, a situation that broke my heart. Now, through my faith, family time, reconnection with what I am passionate about, the support of good friends, Yoga and meditation, I’ve healed and am eagerly open to what comes next in my life. I know that I am more passionate than ever about writing, and want to start a small publishing company in the near future. I have started a new draft of my novel. Once again, the words came as if waiting for me this whole time. I don’t have quite as much free time as during quarantine, but that just makes every minute I am able to give the heroine of my novel, and her magical world, that much more precious, something to look forward to in the middle of my schedule each week.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Some are lucky breaks, some are heartwarming acts of kindness, some are miracles, others are betrayals that leave us reeling. When those happen, we can recover with the right “medicine”: resting, dreaming, and playing. This will take time. Trust me, I know there are days when your heart is too heavy and hurting to allow you to sleep, when you are too surrounded by broken dreams to conjure new ones, and when the last thing you want is to play. But when you have healed enough to try a new direction, something other than the one that led you where you ended up, you find that resting, dreaming, and playing make you stronger each time. You will find the words you want to write, to tell the stories that have been waiting in your heart.
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