Things You Don’t Learn in College

    I should be mad at Maggie Rivers. I should blame her for the obsessed person that I am today. I should never forgive her for turning me into a crazy person that will never again lead a normal clueless, uninformed, beige life. I should, I could, I would except that I actually enjoy what has happened to me. What she did was open my eyes to the world and how I perceive it. She is a writer and now I call myself a writer, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

    Oh, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Since I learned to put pencil to paper back in grade school I entertained my teachers with my stories. It only seems natural that somebody with a vivid imagination and zany story telling skills, such as myself, would end up calling herself a writer. What made me want to take that leap from storyteller to writer was the class I took. Maggie Rivers was my teacher.

    My world now is one of awareness – and eight years of college didn’t give me that. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without spinning the situation into a new story plot or scene idea. I read the obituaries every week so I can collect unusual names, interesting occupations, hobbies and town names. What may seem mundane and ridiculous to “normal” people, is priceless story content. The bad side to this madness is that I haven’t learned how to turn it off. I call it what-if-itis. What if this, what if that. I go to bed at night, struggling with sleep as I wrestle with a plot. I can only go to sleep once I’ve worked out the scene. I wake up in the morning and a new idea has hit me and I’ve got to get to work on it before it’s lost. I have a full time job, but for most of the day I am scanning my environment for plots and details that I can use, quirks in human behavior. 

    And then there’s the research. I remember enjoying the many research papers I was required to do in college. Everyone thought I was nuts, but I loved it. Still do. For every new story, there are weeks of research to get the details right. As long as there is another new story, there will be more for me to learn about. As long as there is more for me to learn about, there will always be another story.

    Should I be mad at Maggie Rivers? Nah. I’m grateful to her for introducing me to the world of what-ifs and why-nots. One of the best hints she taught us? If your story isn’t going anywhere…just burn the house down. Metaphorically, of course. Hopefully, I’ll never need to do that.