Being other people

Yesterday morning on The Writer’s Almanac I heard Anne Tyler quoted as saying, “I want to live other lives. I’ve never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances. It’s lucky I do it on paper. Probably I would be schizophrenic — and six times divorced — if I weren’t writing.” This was amazing because I’d been planning to write a blog on this very topic.

I’ve always been a bit of a tom-boy. I don’t wear (or even own) any make-up, and I don’t care about clothes. I don’t notice when my friends get new hairstyles.

Still, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a person who was stylish, who cared about clothes and makeup, who owned hundreds of shoes. What is that sort of life like? Is it possible to be like that and not have much money? How would one manage that?

My character Olivia Snow is an adventure into that sort of personality. She’s fun to write, and she lets me be stylish and obsessed with clothes without actually being stylish or obsessed with clothes. Writing can be so cool sometimes.

And, of course, this transformation can go much deeper than just a superficial aspect like fashion. For instance, what would it be like to be a person who is angry all the time?

Or what about a woman who was happy and friendly and got along with everyone, but who was constantly annoyed by her own daughter? Maybe the mother was an out-going, successful businesswoman and the daughter was a quiet artist type. Or vice-versa.

And what would it be like to be that daughter, who could never please her mother. Who knew no matter what she did, it wouldn’t be good enough because she just wasn’t the kind of daughter her mother wanted. How would that affect all aspects of her life?

I love diving into the psyche of another person, putting on their problems and their joys and feeling what it is like. Of course, it is always nice to slide that costume off and return to my own simple and happy life.

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