The other day I was sitting in the hospital waiting room, as one so often does when dealing with a family member’s illness.
While I was there, I drafted half a short story, because I had remembered to bring my journal with me.
The story didn’t come into my mind just then. Instead, it was assembled from various ghosts racketing around my brain: A character from Dog of the Dead. A book of spells I bought in the bookstore. The sadness I feel about my family member’s illness. The regrets of getting older. All the tasks I don’t get done around the house. Failures. Losses of all kinds.
My story bubbled up out of all those things, as stories do. I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in stories and in the way our brains make magic out of reality.
The beginning of the story was complete by the time we were called for the procedure, and I left it to percolate. The spell was for banishing ghosts from one’s house, specifically a departed mother, but I disposed of the mother’s ghost quite nicely in the book. She caught a plane to the afterlife. (Really.) What other “ghosts” might someone have who didn’t believe in ghosts, though? I thought about it for a couple of days, realized that we all have regrets that haunt us, and then I finished the draft today.
I’m not the main character, I don’t think the way she does, and I don’t share her ghosts. But writing stories allows me to put things together and think about them deeply. When I was finished, I read through it a couple of times and noticed things I hadn’t even thought about while I was writing.