I've been thinking about friends lately. My big 40th birthday bash is this Saturday, a whole 7 days premature. It was a tough choice, celebrating early, going over to the dark side of 40 before my time. But, when it came right down to it, I didn't hem and haw very long over choosing to do it. I'm starting the celebrating early because I want to have my friends at the gala event, and in Oklahoma, March 13th is the start of Spring Break. Loads of friends will be out of town for my real birthday, March 14. So, I'm crossing over a week early.
Making that decision, as paltry as it really is, got me to thinking about what friends are. While for this event I definitely want the human, flesh and blood version, I think writers actually have a pretty broad definition of "friend." Friends don't actually have to be real people for a writer. Not exactly. They can be, well, imaginary. Some of my best companions have been characters in books. Which brings me to the topic of this week's quirky writer post:
You might be a writer if...you have far more imaginary friends now than you ever did as a child.
As a child, I was very aware of the fact that other kids around me had imaginary friends. I, of course, wanted one too. I waited diligently for one to show up. Maybe I wasn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but what can I say, I was four. I thought that that was what happened. These imaginary people just showed up.
You can imagine my disappointment when none ever did. I wasn't one to give up easily, though. In a fit of desperation, I took things into my own hands and made up an imaginary friend in that I'm-dressing-up-and-becoming-a-different-person kind of way. I just couldn't do the "I-can't-see-her" imaginary friend. I had to see her. Hear her. So I created Starcy. Starcy was a star performer with a name supiciously similar to mine who dressed glamoursly in a hula grass skirt and lei (the most glamorous clothing I had). My mom thought Starcy was great. She wanted to see her a lot, which meant I dressed up a lot, danced the hula, and talked about being a glamorous star. I enjoyed the novelty of Starcy for a while, but, in the end, she just wasn't real enough for me. I gave her up. And that was that with imaginary friends.
When I became a children's author, I more than made up for my meager helping of imaginary friends as a four year old. I now have tons. TONS. Each book means at least ten new ones. They follow me around. They talk to me. They visit me in my sleep. They don't go away when a book is done either. They crowd in on new projects. I don't know how many times Maddie, from my middle grade novel, Draogn Wishes, has shown up while I've been working on Pelorus Jack. Secretly - of course, oh-not-so-very-secretly now - I ask them for advice when working on the plot. I call conferences of my characters. It's true. I've gone over the edge when it comes to imaginary friends. Without them, I don't think I'd ever finish a single book.
Still, as much as I love my imaginary friends, it's the real flesh and blood ones that make living worthwhile. They are the ones I have a glass of wine with when the going gets tough. They lend an ear when I need to vent about my family. They bring me chocolate! Truth be told, it's my real friends who have taught me how to have imaginary ones. Without them, I wouldn't be the writer I am today. In the words of the wise Emily Dickinson, "My friends are my estate."