My So-Called “Real” Life

On Twitter today I noticed this acronym: IRL. At first I thought it was a typo for URL, and then using my best teacherly context clues, I decoded it: In Real Life.

But as writers, don’t we have a different definition of real life than others do?

It’s not always my house in Pennsylvania, my mischievous puggles, or my saintly husband that seem the most real to me. I’ll go for a writing-run and come home not knowing which Doylestown roads I paced down, but with images of fictitious East Lake blurring past my footsteps.

There are days I’ll shave the same leg twice and emerge from the shower with my head still sudsy but full of conversation between my protagonist and her love.

Yesterday I looked up from writing – and just a blog, not even TBALMCSAP – and turned to St.Matt and said, “Hey, if you want to go for a run, you should go before it gets dark and then we’ll do dinner.”

“Tiffany, it is dark. I already ran and I cooked dinner. I ate sitting right next to you, don’t you remember?”

I didn’t. But should I admit that?

Should I confess that sometimes the settings, people, and stories in my head seem more realistic than the ones playing around me in 3-dimensions? That chasing Distraction-Fairy-Jace to Idris taints my dreams and re-directs my thoughts until I find myself surprised not to find runes carved on my own skin? Or that my kiddos’ discussions about the characters in Angie Sage’s Magyk infiltrates their math class, recess talk, and casual conversation until we’re all wishing for a cat/duck or a messenger rat? That I broke my heart and sobbed early morning tears for my main character but rolled my eyes at the co-worker drama that unfolded a few hours later?

I’ve always struggled with this – the real versus the envisioned. My imaginary friends required places at the dinner table and had an alarming habit of ducking out of the way so my dad had to make at least three attempts before he could nail them with goodnight kisses. I caused a minor scandal at the grocery store when my five-year-old self started bawling and screaming at the shopper who’d hit Harvey with her cart.

The bewildered woman looked around, “But I didn’t feel anything. Where is he?”

“He’s around the corner crying and bleeding,” I bawled and the woman went wide-eyed and white faced.

My mother, frantic at the sound of my howls, then embarrassed as she tried to reassure the terrified, apologetic shopper she hadn’t run-over my younger brother, lashed out: “Tiffany Allison, Harvey is NOT REAL. He’s imaginary. You MADE HIM UP.”

If I’d been the recipient of the cart collision, it couldn’t have hurt more than those words.

But it didn’t stop me from making things up – from creating, imagining, and living dual lives: one corporal, one mental.

It’s possible I’m alone in this. Doubtful, but possible. Even if I were,, however, I wouldn’t feel lonely. How could I? There are stories to live and create, both IRL and IMH.

2 comments


  • Now I fully understand how we hit it off so well. I had an imaginary “bug” that lived in my stomach when I was little. When I asked my mom what was for dinner, I would then look down my shirt and ask “Herbie” if he thought meatloaf was okay. He rarely did. 😀

    I also walk around during the day sometimes (as an I-should-know-better adult) convinced that demons/fairies/vampires/whathaveyou are going to spring out at any moment. …And I have had that VERY conversation with St. S. His term for my mental absence is that I’m “thinking about rainbows” because that’s the answer I gave him once when he asked.

    Excuse me, IMH awaits…

    April 8, 2009
  • Haha! Harvey and Herbie would get along so well! Imagine if we’d been IRL friends as children… I don’t think we’d have survived to reach adulthood.

    April 9, 2009

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