The “What If” Mindset of Authors

Since this will be my last blog for SoulMate, I felt the need to make it a bit more personal than the others. My hope is what I say will give you insight as to why many of us continue writing, despite the obstacles.

I’ve attended enough writers conferences to realize that many authors got their start when they were young children: creating journals, entering local contests, and writing essays that were far superior to their classmates. Quite possibly I might be alone in this assumption, but my feeling is that there are thousands of potential writers out there who have yet to put pen to paper, but are instead, creating characters in their heads–characters who eventually fall on the written page.

This is actually how I got my start as a child. I never kept a journal, never entered a writing contest, never really considered that my innermost thoughts could be of any importance.

This was the last picture of my brothers and I together before we were placed in foster care. My mother had suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental institution where she remained for seven years. My father, sadly, went AWOL. Like most young children with overwhelming problems, I played the “what if” game with myself. What if I’d been born into a different family; what if I traded places with a wealthy family instead of being subjected to poverty?

When I was in the second grade, I lived with my very domineering, cranky grandmother. Life was definitely tough, with very little to look forward to…which brings me to how I got started writing…

As a seven-year-old, I didn’t really sit around with a notepad and jot any ideas down, but what I DID do was sit in my grandmother’s basement and create imaginary characters in my head–one of them was a kind, gentle, caring mother who had a special lilt to her laugh (unlike my own deranged mother who screamed at everyone around her–another character was a funny, lovable, supportive father (in contrast to the one who left us to fend for ourselves) who took care of his three children. These characters became in the “what if” game I often played.

I’m happy to report that my story truly ended up being a Cinderella story. That being said, during a horrendously difficult period of my life when I desperately needed an escape, creating imaginary characters in my head helped me fill that void. Without that vivid imagination, I don’t know how I would have survived. My undergraduate psychology degree tells me this was a healthy coping mechanism.

At the age of nine, I ended up in a permanent foster home. At the school I attend, my classmates were extraordinarily supportive of me and encouraged me to write down my thoughts. They enjoyed my adventures I shared on the playground, and I think that began my belief that what I had to say might be of some importance to others. I remain friends with several of them to this day.

My own Cinderella story ends here–with my husband of forty-five years and two of our six grandchildren. Jim probably doesn’t know it, but his beta personality shows up in many of my male characters–particularly in the SoulMate books which are based in Alpine, Texas. I think in the hubster’s heart, he’s probably a true cowboy.

But I’ve digressed…the point of this post is to remind all of you that somewhere out in the vast wilderness of life, there’s probably a child (or adult) with a story to write. We don’t all begin as skilled authors, outpacing our classmates when it comes to writing essay. But we definitely have a story to

tell…and that’s why no matter how discouraged we are; how many rejections we receive; how many writing contests we lose; how few books we sell, we owe it to ourselves to make damn sure our stories are told. Keep writing; never give up; dump the naysayers and follow your dreams.

Hugs and Loves,

Tessa Gray

 

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About alpine4me

I write Western Romance and am a shameless fan of Small Towns and Second Chances. In 2009, I performed at Carnegie Hall and checked that off from my "bucket list." Look for me at the Kiser Ranch down here in Texas where I"ll either be quilting, milking the goat, or making goat milk lotion. The fun never ends!
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8 Responses to The “What If” Mindset of Authors

  1. An inspiring post! 🙂

  2. Beth Carter says:

    What a thoughtful post and insight into your challenging life. Thank you for sharing. I’m thrilled yours turned out to be a Cinderella story.

  3. sueberger3 says:

    What a wonderful story! I want to pick up and hug the child that you were. I like to go to tutoring and offered to write down the stories the children have in their heads. Because I know their imaginations exceed their grasp on writing the story. I put the stories in a book for them (I have a little pamphlet that I use as in excerpt template for samples from my romance stories. When a child reads his own words in printed form they get very proud and very good at reading their own words. I agree with you inside most of us is an author.
    I used to makeup a world to live in. It saved my sanity when my own world fell apart. Merry Christmas.

  4. Claire Gem says:

    Tessa, why is this your last SMP blog post? And what ever happened to your mother (or don’t you know?) My own father, who was an alcoholic, spent several stints in a mental hospital in the town where I grew up. I don’t know how my mother kept it all together…Yours is an amazing, inspiring story. Thank you for sharing, and please don’t be strangers to your SMP family!

    • alpine4me says:

      Thank you, Claire. I did keep up with my mother until her death. This is my last blog because after doing it for a year, I’m trying to cut back on blogs and focus more on helping new members in our local Dallas Area Romance Authors chapter. I appreciate your sharing your story, as well!

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