I swear this is true. It’s one of those stranger than fiction sort of things.
Though I’ve never published fiction, I have written fictional stories that have become real worlds, and people interact with my characters as if they are real, live people.
Let me explain.
Back in the early 90s, I was trapped in a marriage to a man who had become physically and verbally abusive. We had only one car, and I used to stare out the window as he drove through West Palm Beach, fantasizing about what went on inside some of the buildings we’d pass. I couldn’t go inside. My husband, who was much older and made most of the money, controlled where I went physically.
But he couldn’t imprison my imagination. The colorful sign above the ArtsBar on Dixie Highway provoked my curiosity, and my imagination projected me into a dark bar where Bohemian creative types drank and conspired to make art together. Along Federal Highway, a plain beige one-story building announced short term rentals. From a post hung a plain white sign with Mi Casa written in brown script, inviting me in.
Into these spaces, I projected the characters of two young women — Calla, the uninitiated narrator who had just declared her independence from a suffocating marriage and Sybil, a wild child neighbor who taught the narrator the ways of single, independent, creative living. I began to write the story down. And then it took on a life of its own.
Within a few months, enough money to leave my husband found its way into my hands. The local radio was giving away cash — extra if you knew the phrase that pays. I won the big prize — $1,000. That was surprising in itself, but what was even more magical was that I’d told my co-workers that I was going to win the contest that day.
With the money, I moved into a studio in a Palm Beach duplex that was maybe twelve feet square. It was so small, you could sit on the toilet and brush your teeth over the sink at the same time. There was room for a bed, dresser, desk, and book shelf, which left only enough room to walk between the furniture. It was tiny, but it was mine!
Within a couple days, I discovered the best feature of the place: Dorothy, a wild child who would teach me the ways of single, independent, creative living!
I was Calla and she was Sybil. She’d studied theater, art, and poetry. She believed in the chthonian power of the arts and lauded chaos, darkness, and earth magic. Dorothy showed me all around Palm Beach, where she had been waiting tables and rubbing elbows with high society who appreciated smart women with quick wit and sharp tongues. She took me to the bars and arts institutions. She taught me the importance of a little black dress and red lipstick. She taught me to be shameless and brazen. Within the year, Dorothy and I had published our first art & literary magazine and were featured several times in the local press.
Then Dorothy took off for Europe with a backpack and I became a one-woman show. I performed poetry on pool tables, I started a poetry band. People started calling me “The Poetry Chick.” Eventually, I founded Delray Beach’s Dada Poetry Slam (Florida’s longest running slam, which just came in FIRST PLACE in National Poetry Slam Group Pieces! Yay team!). I traveled around the country performing my poetry and selling my chapbooks.
I wrote that new life into existence. It began with a vision — a fantasy — which I clarified and developed as I wrote. In the writing, the characters became more real, more embodied.
I understand that my desire for freedom — personal and creative — was within my power to choose.
How on earth did I manifest Dorothy, though?
I don’t know. Perhaps the story was a pre-cognition. Or maybe I just got lucky. I can’t say for sure. But I do know that I have observed these synchronicities over and over in my life where my writing about things precedes them — new situations, events, and people.
I teach this aspect of Practical Magic for Writers in my Genius! workshop. I really am in awe of our ability to manifest the lives we want by imagining them and writing them into existence. That seems like magic to me.
The 13-week workshop begins this week. I’d be delighted if you’d join me.