As a child, my favorite game was anything that involved pretending–Barbies, playing house, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians–I wasn’t picky as long as I could be someone I wasn’t. Once, a friend’s mother suggested we do something other than pretend games, and I had a genuine ‘like what’ moment. I think I was about 9; I still remember the confusion. Playing a board game never occurred to me.
In the years since, I have used my love of role playing in constructive ways. It helps with writing, certainly, but it’s also a confidence booster. When Eric was deployed in 1990, Alex was a baby and I was Active Duty. We were working 12-14 hour days regularly, getting ready for more deployments. Of course, I was sick for a solid month. One of the things that got me through and made me stronger was pretending to be my mother-in-law on the hard days. She had been a nurse for 25 years at that point, and had worked on almost every ward. She was about the strongest woman I knew, so when I felt weak I would ask myself how she would handle the situation. Essentially, it was fake it ’til you make it, but in the process I learned to better manage my emotions and my tongue, and I learned to stand up for myself.
I still do this, but in different ways. When I read, I key in on different ways of saying things. I notice character quirks. Sometimes I’ll re-read whole pages to try to see the technique. Other times I get wrapped in the story and read it again later for self-improvement. Writing can be taught, but a lot of us learned not only writing but also spelling and grammar by burying our noses in paperbacks. These days, when the words won’t come, or when they’re not the right words, I find myself thinking, “How would Holly Lisle write this?” I’m still faking it ’til I make it!