Once upon a time, a very long time ago – about 40 years – there was a little girl who wanted to write stories. The problem was she was only small and hadn’t learnt how to write letters and words properly yet. Fortunately for her, she had a wise and clever Mum who bought the little girl her own big black book filled with blank pages and lots of lines just like grown-ups have. Although it was quite a boring book on the outside, the girl thought it was magnificent because it was empty and it would become her very own book of adventures and exciting stories. Having seen what her Mum and Dad’s books look like on the inside she took a ball point pen and filled pages and pages and even more pages with rows of squiggles, dots and lines. Those funny squiggles told all the tales that were in her imagination even though they looked like nonsense to anybody else. To her they seemed very important and grand.
Some years later in school, being about 10 and so a big girl now, she discovered poetry. The way you have to find just the right words to put at the end of sentences which rhymed with one another was fun and cool and quite amusing. Amazing herself with what came out of her own head, she build rhymes about witches and ghosts and things that were a little bit scary. She didn’t ever write about the crocodiles under the bed though because she didn’t write about real stuff. She loved her teacher who said she was doing a great job as well as the fact she smelled absolutely lovely.
When she was thirteen she went to high school and left home to go to boarding school where annoyingly, lights-out was at 9:15pm. Her English teacher set the class the task of writing a fantasy story and gave them three weeks to complete their homework and she said there was no limit to the length of the story. The first evening the girl wrote Chapter One. On the night before the three weeks was up she wrote Chapters Two to Twenty One but she had to do it sitting quietly on the bathroom floor because those where the only rooms where the lights were allowed to stay on all night. She filled up her Creative Writing book and her story was a bit longer than the teacher expected but the girl really couldn’t help it because she had enjoyed writing the story so much she didn’t want to stop until she felt it was finished. She was kinda chuffed that the teacher chose her story to read to the class but the other girls complained because the beautiful princess died at the end of the story which was a little odd to them and not really the way most fairy tales are supposed to end.
The following year most things changed in the girl’s world. She moved house, away from the seaside right across the county to a big city, she changed school and had to make new friends with girls who had already decided who their friends were and probably thought she was just weird anyway. Also her body changed which was too embarrassing to talk about. It was all quite confusing and complicated and the sorting out of all her thoughts kept her mind very busy. She filled diaries and journals with mixed-up emotions and questions. Heartbreak and insecurities soaked the pages with big wet tears, anger and frustration left deep marks imprinting themselves with ghost letters on subsequent sheets. Fantasy was replaced with reality. Those characters called ‘Love’ and ‘Fear’ stepped off the pages of fairy tales into her life. With the passing of time they were joined by others called ‘Inspiration’, ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’ as well as the uninvited ones called ‘Shame’ and ‘Guilt’. She HATED that time.
Eventually she grew up into a a young woman, she got married and had children and she didn’t want to write stories anymore. All the diaries were thrown away. A beautiful leather-bound book that her Father had kindly bought her to replace the original long-lost black exercise book was tentatively approached but never filled. The book lay quiet, patient and waiting. It held a promise of joy waiting to be experienced and a return to the innocent simplicity of child-like expression. It sat on a book shelf for twenty years.
Experiences are built one upon the other which sometimes develop into wisdom and the woman travelled right across the world. She came to realise that slipping from reality to fantasy is a mere shift of the mind and she’s learning how to know when she’s in the one realm or the other and why she needs both. Because both can be helpful and good. She’s also come to know that some real life stories do end in terrible sadness that cut her painfully and endlessly. She believes, however, that the stories she longs for most are those that do have a ‘Happily Ever After’ ending. She’s learnt about one that is the greatest love story ever written, a redemptive story that over-arches all.
She also has started to write again.
She has one regret, she is sorry she allowed that dreadful enemy of creativity called ‘Doubt’ to separate her from something that brought her such joy once upon a time. And now she is determined to write again, to fill the pages of her leather-bound book until her own happily ever after is finally reached.