I posted a comment on the blog of The Hack Novelist today, and it brought something back to me. Namely, Ptolemy … my so-called invisible friend.
I say so-called because he wasn’t really my invisible friend. Back when I was about eleven (huh, only four years ago), I used to pretend that I believed in elves and dragons and, yes, my invisible friend called Ptolemy. It made me rather unpopular at school; some people still make fun of me, because at the time I referred to ‘Delorfinde’ as my elf name. When they found out I still used it, well …
I ‘met’ Ptolemy for the first time towards the end of the first or second term of Year Seven. I can’t remember which term it was, not any more. A friend of mine and I walked all the way down to the end of the field (which takes about ten minutes – it’s this sort of thing that makes me think it must have been Spring not Winter), where I claimed to see Ptolemy sitting in a tree.
Yeah. You know, as writers we’re often seen by other people as being crazy, and I guess there are plenty of reasons for that. Talking to oneself, crying over fictional characters and generally just yelling, “OH CRAP, I JUST KILLED HIM!” (alarming the policeman next door) are not usually the best things to endear you to other people.
Is this a bad thing?
I don’t know. I mean, they’re always saying to me that being a writer isn’t a proper job. Time-wise, I’d say it is. But if authors were a little more, well, normal, would other people be more kindly disposed to them?
Occasionally, I still talk about Ptolemy. On a school trip we were supposed to be walking in threes. It was myself, my friend Allan … and Ptolemy.
We had been separated from the rest of our group.
But most of the time, my actions a few years ago are a source of great embarrassment. I can’t even believe what an idiot I was. Perhaps if I hadn’t done that, I would have been popular. (Well, I can dream, right? Less unpopular than now, anyway).
I wonder if when I get older, I’ll look at my stories in the same way, or whether I’ll find something in there that actually, I’m very glad I wrote. Like Ptolemy. I’m very glad he’s there, sometimes, even if it makes me seem crazy. At least if people ask me who I’m talking to, I don’t have to say ‘myself’.
Although, if I’m honest, the alternative isn’t much better.