I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But I also wanted to pursue a career as Indiana Jones or Perry Mason. I gave up my Indiana Jones dream after a two month archaelogical field school the summer before my senior year of college where I finally realized, on a visceral level, how much dirt was involved. (Hint: so much dirt. So. Much. Dirt.) Law school cured me of my Perry Mason ambitions and the less said about that, the better.
Once those two dream jobs had lost their luster, the only fantasy left was writing. But something very basic kept me from pursuing it. What stopped me wasn’t a lack of time, or fear, or any of the hundreds of other excuses writers have for not writing. (Full disclosure: those things all play a huge part in my writing life now.) What stopped me from writing was a genuine lack of imagination. I could not, for the life of me, think of a single plot worth writing down. And it’s not like all I could come up with were bad plots; I couldn’t come up with any plots. Every time I tried to exercise my my feeble imagination it gave me something that bore an eerie resemblance to (read: was a complete knockoff of) the plot of whatever book I was currently reading.
And then something happened. I don’t know what prompted it, but I had an idea! (And yes, I’m going to use an exclamation point because that first idea was just that exciting.) I’m not going to say it was a brilliant idea, because it wasn’t. I’m also not going to say it’s a unique idea, because are there any of those? I also can’t say it wasn’t inspired by books I’d read, because … duh. But it was still my idea, one that arose out of a genuine creative spark in my brain and that felt revolutionary. Maybe, just maybe, I could actually write a book.
Something switched on in my brain with that first idea and they’ve kept showing up. A lot of writers like to talk about their plot bunnies – plot ideas that hop around in their head and multiply like rabbits. Often when writers talk about plot bunnies, they’re complaining about them as a distraction from their current work in progress. I doubt that will ever be me. I don’t get plot bunnies. My ideas are more like plot mice – small, furtive, hard to catch, and heart-breakingly fragile. I still adore each little plot mouse that shows its beady little eyes because part of me is afraid I’ll never see one again.
So what was your path to writing? Are you one of those people who have been writing down stories since you could pick up a crayon? Or are you someone who came to this particular creative endeavor after years and years of reading other people’s work? Do you get plot bunnies, plot mice, or are your ideas better likened to some other creature altogether? As fond as I am of my mice, someday I’d really love to get a plot pony under the Christmas tree. Wouldn’t we all love an idea that comes to us in a form that’s sturdy and capable and ready to carry us all the way to “The End”?