I played a lot with dolls as a child, especially Barbies and paper dolls, and had a hard time letting go of that stage of my life. At fourteen I knew I was supposed to have left dolls behind, and a part of me was eager to get on with the next stage – ie boys, clothes, make-up etc – but another part just couldn’t quite do it. So although I acted as grown-up as I could at school, I sometimes secretly met up with a girl who was a couple of years younger than me and we played with the dolls, me under the pretence that I was being kind to her. Yeah, right.
But I came to realise later on that it wasn’t the dolls as such I couldn’t let go of, but the fact that I was escaping into a fantasy world, making up stories about them and what they were doing. Real life was scary and unsettling, becoming an adult painful. I needed that alternative world and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was obviously practising to become a writer. Unlike some authors, I just never had the urge to write any of it down.
I’ve always day-dreamed, for as long as I can remember, and playing with dolls was part of that. My favourite doll was my alter ego, the person I wanted to be or would have been if I’d been more courageous/prettier/smarter or whatever. She got to do all the things I wished I could have done – like stand up to the school bullies, get invited to all the best parties, have the hottest guy in class fall in love with her, go off on fantastic adventures … I was a mouse really, while she was a lion.
I’m still trying to catch up with her, but I think I’m now somewhere in between 🙂
The paper dolls were even better than real ones, because whatever they needed I could draw/make for them, whereas my skills at sewing clothes or making stuff for real were much more limited. With paper dolls anything was possible and my happiest times were spent creating clothes, houses and accessories for them to go with their stories. I can’t remember when I stopped drawing, but I missed that too (I love doing anything creative so these days I paint walls and furniture instead).
Now, I still have the dolls (as collector’s items only, I swear!) but it’s pure nostalgia. I don’t need them any more because the stories come into my head anyway. I suppose you could say the characters in my books are imaginary dolls and all the things they need I draw or paint with words, instead of with crayons. I never thought I would end up as an author, but I can see now that it was probably always meant to be, so I have to be grateful to the dolls for my training. Without them, I’d never have known where to start!