• Esther Harder

When Your Life Catches Up to Your Imagination

Have you heard the joke / warning that you should be wary of what you say or how you behave around the writers in your life, because you just might end up written into their stories? (The more macabre of these jokes push the point by saying you know you really annoyed a writer when you read of your namesake-character's sudden demise.)

Blond-brown hair pulled into a messy topknot.
I never would have guessed where I first met Elia.

It's true. You should be wary.

You may not find a perfect replica of yourself in the pages or paragraphs, but an author blends what they know with what they are imagining, and sometimes the line between real and imagined gets a little fuzzy.

This past week, real-life me ran into the living, breathing person I named my main character of Quarantine Kids after.

Elia, it turns out, is the name of the last hair stylist I visited just before lockdown began. She did a great job. We connected while she clipped away at my hair, but the thought of a book at that time was nowhere near my consciousness. I was mainly striving to get through each day as a new parent. I wasn't in the habit of pulling out a mini notebook and writing down my ideas anymore (this post explains WHY), so I did not capture the name Elia any more than fleetingly thinking about how cool it sounded in passing.

And then life changed. I left the hair stylist, flew to Mexico for a family party (described here), returned, and went into lockdown, never to see a stylist again.

Until this past week.

Seeing the name Elia pop up on the appointment screen was a little otherworldly. One moment, I was doing this task so I could get on to more interesting things than registering for appointments. The next moment, I was face to face with the recognition that this connection, this mundane, I guess I need a haircut moment of last year, was forever immortalized in a character who now has a life of her own.

Is Elia, the living-breathing stylist, anything like the Elia of my story? I have no idea. How much do you know about your stylist after one visit? But that's not the point. The point that I am left musing about is how much of what I think I am totally making up out of my head has the fingerprints of my reality all over it. The point is that even if I think that I don't have the time or am not thinking about writing, I am thinking, observing, and collecting bits that could become useful someday.

I enjoyed giving Elia a copy of Quarantine Kids. If someone meets me, and later writes a part of me into a book, I would be touched if they circled back and did the same. It feels like a thanksgiving for the mysteriousness that is the creative process.

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