Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Autism Answer: The Power of "What If...?" (for Writers and Parents)

Author's note: This post grew out of a comment I made on THIS blog post titled "What if?" by Jack Fitzgerald, an author and writer of screenplays that I follow. In invite you to have a peek!

I'm a mom and a writer. 

I'm other things too, of course, but these are kinda my favorite. 

In my parenting role I still sometimes shy away from "What if...?". There is responsibility hinted at in the phrase and I am uncommonly uncomfortable with responsibility. Luckily, for me and my siblings and all of our children, my mom is the queen of "What if...?" She uses it wisely and recognizes its power. So even though I'm tempted to shy away I've grown gifted--though not as gifted as mom!--in the use of "What if...?" 

"What if my son squishes my cheeks because he's seeking a sensory sensation that I can give him in a less intrusive way?" or "What if my brother is hitting his thigh because he feels numb and needs help with circulation?" or "What if those sounds my brother makes are words and he's trying with all of his heart to have his ideas heard?" These are a few examples of important and healthy "What if...?"s.

Of course, "What if my daughter is autistic because I didn't breastfeed?" or "What if I didn't have such a weird mom and I'd had a normal childhood with less poverty?" or "What if I could just go to the store without everyone staring at me or avoiding me out of misplaced fear?" These are a few examples of more dangerous "What if...?"s. They are not valueless but need to be explored with extreme caution. 

As a parent and a writer, all "What if...?"s can be healthy, but we have to insist on using them in healthy ways. In parenting, my mom taught me the never-ending value of asking our "What if...?"s carefully and with an eye on taking kind action. It's made so many wonderful and important differences in our lives!! 

As a writer I can be a little less careful. In fact, it's a good idea to follow some dangerous "What if...?"s so that I can explore their potential in a world of my own making without ever manifesting it where lives are lived more concretely. 

But, there is still power. And where there is power, there is danger. So when following and creating "What if...?"s, even in writing, we still have a responsibility to be intentional. 

Many years ago I was on a long drive and a movie idea manifested for me. While my small sons sang and played and fought in the back seat I enjoyed my usual habit of peeking in passing cars, wondering where the other travelers were going and why. Then (with a touch of wistfulness for a life unencumbered) I wondered, “What if I could just live alone on the road and imagine all the lives I want to live?”

A few nights later I put my boys to bed and sat up writing Carhopping.

Most of the lives the Hitchhiker in my movie imagines are, not surprisingly, variations of my own. Things I’d experienced or people I’d once wanted to be. What began as a neat idea for a movie turned into an important exercise for me. And in my writing, bad things happen. People hurt each other. I explore the hurt and find answers for healing it. I encouraged myself to think dangerous "What if...?"s and I even put one of my characters in a situation I thought I couldn't imagine her getting out of. 

Indeed, in my first draft she gave up. She killed herself. But soon, she gave me a better solution for herself and I was amazed! My dangerous "What if...?" taught me that somewhere down deep, there is always an answer! Giving up is never the only option!

Following those "What if...?"s began a gorgeous addiction to writing! 

Reading is a wonderful way to know ourselves. By listening to our thoughts and reactions as we imagine a life different from our own. But writing is a way to know and to create! To ask “What if...?” and then to discover answers. And while writing we are reminded that there are always so many answers–not right or wrong answers so much as, simply, answers. Choices. Ideas. Twists. Possibilities.

There are an infinite number of possibilities available when we wonder, “What if….?”!!

As parents, it's a powerful tool. We must be intentional and kind and action oriented and hopeful and loving when we ask "What if...?" When we do, when we are, as my mom taught me over and over--miracles can be made

In other areas of our lives we can be a bit freer with our "What if...?"s Though, they are still powerful! So we still need to be intentional and loving while we dive deeper into danger. 

I’m going to be careful. I find the "What if...?" world of writing addicting and delicious. “What if…” I get lost in the world of possibilities and can’t find my way home? But wait, “What if…” my home is the possibilities? Much like the Hitchhiker in my movie learns about himself, perhaps the feelings and memories I create with my imagination are my true home??

The "What if...?" game is powerful. 

Even if it can be a little bit dangerous. 

And now I'm wondering, "What if... I cleaned my kitchen? Would I finally discover the source of that strange and not-so-nice smell?"

I think I'll explore that "What if...?" Although, the source of the smell could be dangerous and is most certainly gross. Seriously, I think something died behind my stove. 

"What if.... my husband checks it out for me?" Oooohhhh.... I'm liking the "What if...?" game even more now! tee hee! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
"What if.... four brothers sneak off to a party in the woods when mom leaves the oldest babysitting?" The Mice will Play... title (for now) of the book I'm working on!

("What if... you share this blog post with your friends? Giggle! )