As a preteen I used to play the “what if” game.
What if our homeroom teacher hadn’t made us sit in alphabetical order? Then I might have sat next to Joey Larson instead of Bill Simmons and for sure Joey would have noticed how funny I could be (I mean, after three years, how could he not?) and he would have asked me to the Spring Fling.
We could have gotten married, had three kids, a white picket fence and lived happily ever after.
This game continued into my teenage years.
In high school, I would sit on the grass and imagine the lives of the students passing in front of me. What if that girl in the red sweater is allergic to the cookie her friend just handed her? What if later on in Algebra, she ends up having trouble breathing and they have to call an ambulance and take her to the ER where the doctor treating her is drop dead gorgeous? After saving her life, he asks her on a date and voila, they might get married, have three kids, a white picket fence and live happily ever after.
And then came the biggest what if.
What if I hadn’t had that great English teacher who suggested I write stories? For after all, isn’t that what I’d been doing all along?
So, in my twenties, I progressed to a more organized version of this game. And I began to write. And write. And write some more. Sonnets, limericks, short stories, scripts, and eventually novels. I would put my characters into “what if” situations and see how they resolved their conflicts. When things got too easy for them, I’d throw in another “what if.”
Throughout the years, I’ve had some success but I’m still waiting for my name on the cover of a novel. All I ask is that I still remember my name when it happens.
It’s tough, this waiting. This business is so very slow. We hurry up to finish a manuscript in order to wait to hear back. And wait. And wait. We could fly to the moon and back and still not hear anything. And then sometimes what we hear is heartbreaking, not at all what we expected.
What if I hadn’t taken time to sit my butt in that chair and write? Today, I wouldn’t have several finished manuscripts, an agent, interested editors and the possibility of getting “the call.”
What if I’m driving on the freeway when it happens? What if I pull over in front of a house with three kids playing in the front yard behind a white picket fence when my agent tells me I’ve been offered a two book contract?
I believe it will happen, but not if I don’t keep writing.
Is there a “what if” that keeps you writing?
Janie Emaus has been published in The Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, True Confessions, The Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room Page, www.boomerwomenspeak.com and www.bellaonline.com. She has also written several writer-for hire books for Parachute Press, the packager of a popular childrens’ series as well as educational videos for elementary school children. She is currently working on a book about baby boomers.