I call them my imaginary friends. When I talk about these people, my husband usually doesn’t know if I’m talking about someone real or not. Occasionally, he doesn’t dare ask because he knows he should know if they are or not. I’d like him to be as invested in them as I am, but that’s not possible. And while he really doesn’t understand, he helps me hammer out details of their motivations and consequences.
I don’t write about them because I want to; I write about them because I must. I am compelled. I don’t think you’ll find another writer anywhere who won’t tell you he’s compelled to write.
I’d written 5 full-length novels between ’92 and ’96 (not counting my first effort, which, well, you know about first novels). Then, for about 5 years, I went without writing anything and I had ceased telling anyone I wrote anything ever. I had a giant mess of a plot I couldn’t work out with a giant mess of an anti-hero—
—and then life intruded and then I got married and then I had a baby, then I had another baby. I still thought about my imaginary friends occasionally, but with a sense of sadness, of loss. I felt as if they had abandoned me, so I avoided that section of my hard drive assiduously and devoted myself to the task of being practical and making an effort to find some joy in it.
Yeah, that didn’t work.
I started a business (not this one). It’s creative. I knew I wouldn’t make much money from it but it makes a little and I get to indulge my one other true passion. I enjoyed it. I still enjoy it.
But not as much I enjoy my imaginary friends, who came back to me one night after I had been especially practical that week, topping the previous 4 years of excruciating practicality. I was tired and feeling unfulfilled, aforementioned creative business notwithstanding.
So they made me pick up my pen again. Now I’m involved with a “new” set of imaginary friends, my old ones hanging around on the periphery, popping in the manuscripts as secondary characters. An ongoing epilogue without an actual epilogue.
I don’t know if they’ll ever let me go now.