Friday, March 2, 2012

My Peter Pan Syndrome

Suzanne & her daughters
True confession: I don't think I'll ever grow up. Oh, I'm technically a grown up. I've got all the headaches of a grown up - bills to pay, children to raise, all the usual stuff. BUT, I think there is a big part of me that somewhere along the way refused to stop 'playing pretend'.

When I was little I was more like my children. I remember donning my mother's or even my grandmother's clothes to play 'dress up' - including shoes, jewelry and the like. As a writer, I don't usually go to the extreme of dressing up like my characters, but I had the opportunity this summer to visit a local treasure called Conner Prairie up near Fishers, Indiana. If you are at all interested in history it is worth the trip.

While walking through the Conner homestead (resembling an 1836 prairie town) it hit me how awesome imagination can be. Around every corner was a new opportunity to pretend you lived there and fill the town with crazy neighbors, rugged heroes, and every day challenges. My daughters loved it when I jumped in and dressed up with them in some provided costumes for the photo above, but I realized the truth to be that nothing provided came close to the costuming and conversations I was picturing in my head.

Even in more modern settings, a snatch of conversation can stimulate my mind to manufacture an entire back story for the people I've overheard. And I love it! Even if the stories I make up aren't their 'real' story, I feel this ability makes me more understanding of others ... more compassionate. How can that be a bad thing?

So I don't think I'll ever be done 'playing pretend' - even if I mostly do it in my mind, or on my computer screen via keyboard. And I know that amongst fiction writers I have many kindred spirits. How about it everyone, off to Neverland?


  1. Letting you know -- I think I've reached my goal of making my adolesence last until I hit my mid-life crisis.

    Dressing up like my characters? Well, since my writing is contemporary and my characters are preachers, lawyers, and college professors, I might try that. Or do they dress like me? However, I'm definitely not going to dress like my radio talk-show hostess character -- I don't have the legs for a skirt.

    On one hand, you're right on the money -- writers need to maintain their ability to pretend. However, depending on our writing, we need to grow up enough to understand what real people are going through. Not as true for children and teens maybe, but we need to grow up enough for grown ups to be fooled.

    Very interesting post, and I thank you for sharing it.

    Jeff Reynolds

  2. I do agree with you, Jeff. Playing pretend with my writing characters is much more complex than playing 'dress up' with my girls ... My characters have real-world problems, even if they are make believe. But I do think having a vivid imagination can make you a more empathetic person - and the older I get, the more things I or my close friends have experienced as well.

    And I fake being a grown up pretty well when I need to. :) Thanks for commenting!

  3. I think imagination is a tremendously valuable tool. It lets me experience a minor situation and explore the emotions of a similar major situation. I do miss having small children to play make believe with. Thanks, for the blog, Suzanne.

  4. I am treasuring their younger years. I know some day they'll be too grown up to play pretend with such abandonment. But then, we've already begun the adventure with my oldest of learning to read!! I'm already certain both of them will be book addicts like me, as they beg me nightly for story time. LOL Their favorite, at the moment, is the Veggie Tales story bible.