I’ve been reminiscing with a nine-year-old recently.
My nine-year-old self, that is. An adorable, but weird kid, more comfortable with books than with other kids. I learned how to ride a bike late and was comically clumsy. In fact, I made so many trips to the emergency room, I can even today remember the inside of the vice principal’s car. What an awkward little bird I was, my head made top-heavy with owlish glasses that magnified my eyes. Irregular, mom-cut bangs that never lay flat. Teachers noted my intelligence, but my attention was constantly elsewhere, travelling through a series of imaginary worlds far away from the chalk-filled air of the classroom.
When I was nine, stories happened everywhere. And when a story beckoned, I always stopped to listen.
In one, I was an orphan in Saskatchewan; my brother and I adopted by a farmer after our parents died on a geological survey in the north. We were found at the camp, alive, curled up together in the snow. When I walked home through the streets of NDG, it wasn’t a sidewalk on King Edward, but a long, dusty road between wheat fields.
In another story, I was one half of twin girls, born to a Canadian mother and a Saudi prince. Sometimes I was the sister in Canada, but most days I was the Saudi sister, swanning around the dining room, dripping in jewels, my sheet/gown regally trailing behind as my mother hollered for me to peel the potatoes for dinner.
I also had a high fashion boutique and loved drawing up bills for fabulous outfits that I could only see in my mind. When friends came over, I would spend hours carefully arranging my room so that all my best toys and books were visible and available for play.
I had all the time in the world for stories. Every moment was an opportunity for telling and every idea ripe with possibilities.
Stories require a little more effort as an adult. They still appear, but with the time crunch, it’s not always possible to drop what I’m doing. I have to make notes and steal pockets of time here and there to experience what these possible worlds feel like, to hear the messages they carry, to craft them into shapes that others can pick up and find awe in.
It’s taking me much longer than I thought to complete the stories that I’ve started. My stories, I don’t mind saying, are good, but eternally unfinished. Working from home helps, but it still means slow progress. Every block of creative writing time requires an equal amount of time for reading, taking a walk and contemplating the bumblebees in my back yard while having a snack. For the last 15 years, my clients have provided me with stimulating projects, as well as satisfying professional relationships, but I somehow feel as if a part of me – the creative writer – isn’t being honoured as she wants to be.
But it mostly feels like I’m not being true to the nine-year-old who loved stories more than anything else in the world. I love that little weirdo so much. I can’t let her down.
So I have decided to take a sabbatical later this year – just two months. Some details are clear, others less so. I will travel and write every day, moving away from client work for a while to focus on a novel and getting my stories published. I know that this means career suicide, financial worry and months away from the people I love, but it’s manageable compared to how my heart will feel if I don’t do this.
Dear gawd, I may even write more blog posts…