When we were children, my sister and I lived off and on with our grandparents. They resided in a cottage in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York on one of the smaller lakes. During the summer time, the cottages and restaurants were full of renters and second home owners. In the off-season, however, we were one of the few year-round residents. In winter, it was downright desolate.
When it was so quiet and lonely, that’s when my sister, Bonnie, and I would make up adventures and live them out among the empty cottages and dirt roads. Living on a lake made the adventures more real. The blowing snow, the fog lifting from the lake’s dark surface, old Native American tales—the mysteries were dark and spooky. Perfect for adventurous children.
On top of that, there was a Boy Scout camp on that lake, about a mile from us. During the winter, nobody was there and it was a great place to explore and look for pirate booty.
My sister, God bless her, was two years younger than me and she was really a good sport at living in my imagination. Granted, there were times when she’d balk and refuse to go on my adventures—until I promised to give her wheelbarrow rides when we got back to my grandparent’s house.
Then, as I got older, to make money, after school and on weekends, I worked on dairy farms and vineyards in the area. A lot of that labor is solo and repetitive so to keep from going stark raving mad, I made up stories in my head. They were always thrilling adventures, where I was always the hero.
Gee Tom, that’s great, but when did you want to become a writer?
I’m getting to that part.
In addition to making stuff up, I was a voracious reader. My grandfather had a huge collection of Louis L’Amour westerns and Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason series. He also had a volume of Sherlock Holmes stories.
When the new James Bond novel would come out, I’d pay my sixty cents to buy the paperback version down at the local pharmacy. Then I got addicted to John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee mystery/thriller series.
Get to the point, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
It was when my grandparents let me use their typewriter. I was only eleven or twelve at the time, but I thrilled to sound of the keys as they tapped out the stories in my head and put them on a sheet of paper. The tales I wrote were of murders and kidnappings and general skullduggery. Whenever I wrote a passage that contained the word “blood”, I switched the typewriter ribbon from black to red.
My grandparents were my biggest fans. My Uncle Hub (Emory Herbert Young) was also a story teller and would read my adventures and encouraged me keep writing.
But real life got in the way. Dating girls, college, marriage and children of my own. I never stopped writing, but I was working for newspapers and magazines at the time. It wasn’t until my children were grown and I changed careers, that I became serious about living in my imagination again.
I didn’t have to dig very deep to tap into that childhood imagination that I enjoyed for so much of my youth.
According to Joanne Friedman, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, “The ability to continue to create fantasy out of reality continues into adulthood. Whether we indulge it or not is a personality differences matter. Adult don’t “squash” creativity in children. They may limit its expression, however, by not listening and by telling a child he needs to stop expressing it. It still exists internally and comes out when adults aren’t around. I know my parents, not really the most attentive listeners to my shy little voice, had no clue I thought I could fly (until probably the fourth or fifth grade) and was spending time jumping off the picnic table not to hone my jumping skills but because I was flying, in my own mind, across the yard. So how loudly a child expresses the fantasies also plays a part. Creativity would not exist at all in the adult world were it not for the fact that we all still have that little voice in our heads that remembers our early explorations and thrives on the memories.”
So fellow writers, let’s keep makin’ stuff up and writin’ it down.
Thomas Kies’ next novel, Graveyard Bay, will be available in September 2019. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon.