Imaginary Conversations

by Rachel Creager Ireland

I started Twitter-following Mark Lee because he has a review blog, Masquerade Crew. It seemed like a good idea to network with people like that. He seems to have a genuine desire to help other writers, particularly by building community. I notice that he often tweets late at night, when I am on Twitter because everyone in my house is sleeping, and therefore unable to ask me for anything. (Well, actually, the kids often cry in their sleep, or wake up wanting something, but that’s another story.) I like that he often asks open questions of whatever writers might be looking at Twitter at the moment. Not many people who don’t even know me are willing to get into a conversation. It strokes my pathetic, hungry little ego. He appears to believe my claim that I am a writer. Really, I am.

The other night Mark noted that, what with NaNoWriMo underway, fewer writers are on Twitter, and he asked how we writers are doing. I replied that I’m not writing, but am otherwise same as usual. I might have said “otherwise fine,” but I don’t feel fine lately, I feel challenged to manage my mental health, but that is pretty usual, realistically speaking. We exchanged a couple niceties and I went to the kitchen to wash some dishes.

Washing dishes is a good time to think. I thought about not writing. I imagined myself in a conversation with Mark. He would ask me, in sort of a fatherly, concerned way, why I’m not writing. I would say, well, I’ve been so busy, with Halloween, my daughter’s birthday, soccer season, etc. I would say that I haven’t had an October that I didn’t feel crazy and unable to manage since my Mom died two weeks before Halloween, four years ago. I’m probably feeling the emotional affects of the shorter days, and I suspect hormonal swings are involved. Halloween could be a weird time for me already, since I had an ex-boyfriend who committed suicide on Halloween, but that was twenty-five years ago. Claiming that would just be a lame excuse. It’s all a lame excuse, really, and surely my friend Mark would kindly point that out to me.

Then I would cop to lameness. I would say that I do have ideas, and want to write, but I need to finish my last project before I move on. It is in fact complete, but I haven’t published it. But why, he asks. Well . . . it’s money. It’s not that there is no money, it’s that there are too many bills. It won’t take much, and I had set aside enough, but then I spent it on a birthday party for my daughter. I could continue putting off the bills, it’s been so long now, what difference would another month make? They were put off for lots of reasons, some not any more or less pressing than my need to publish my novel. So really that’s not exactly the reason.

When I keep thinking this far, I find I’m waiting for someone to give me permission. I want someone to tell me that this is as valid as I think it is. It’s as important as replacing the oven that blew up three weeks ago, it’s as important as old credit card debt, it’s as important as giving my daughter a birthday party. I want approval. What have I ever done of any significance without permission from someone I saw as an authority? It seems like most of the decisions I made entirely on my own went stupid. (Must state here that my marriage would be the one obvious exception.)

So there’s my answer: I’m not writing because I’m waiting for someone to give me permission.

I went back to the computer and tweeted Mark, “I just had an imaginary conversation explaining to you why I’m not writing. Thanks for not accepting my lame excuses.”

But, surprisingly, he wasn’t too pleased to have been a visitor in my imaginary world. I can’t imagine why. I had to explain. I swore to him that it was only a conversation, and I did most of the talking. He didn’t like that any better.

I suppose any chance I might have had of a professional relationship with this person is shot. Is that so strange, imaginary conversations? It’s not like I don’t know the difference. (Notwithstanding my thanks expressed to the real person for what the imaginary person said. That was tongue in cheek.) It’s something I’ve done all my life. It’s kind of how I think, sometimes. Does everyone do this, but just not tell anyone?

Who do you talk to, in your imagination?