IF. One word, two letters. It appears in multiple well known phrases, but two, poles apart, have impacted my life the most. One phrase looks back, the other forward. One phrase would pull my life apart if I allowed it. The other has enhanced my life beyond measure.
Silly? Maybe. Impossible? No.
(1) IF only looks into the past through a lens that too often devolves into regret or bitterness.
(2) What IF? looks forward through a hopeful, inspired lens that utilizes my imagination.
IF, a tiny conjunction, plays a part in every life and in all writing. Were I to visualize it, it’d graph as two extremes looming large rather than a centered normal range distribution. Twin peaks. Somewhere in the middle is the Christina who’s contemplating the extremes with a touch of wonder. Lucky for anyone reading this, she’s the one writing this blog post.
I don’t know if it’s a function of my INFJ personality that I examine life and the world this way. I know it’s helpful for writing that I can adopt odd perspectives. Is it a product of nature versus nurture? Maybe, maybe not. That’s a topic too complex for this post and, really, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I’ve learned to combat IF Only while nurturing What IF.
A Very Brief Glance at If Only
For years, I was far too adept at spiraling into IF Only. If only I’d never become sick in 2009. If only I’d found myself sooner. If only I’d become serious about writing at a younger age.
You get the idea.
They’re time travel wishes that aren’t constructive. Note that they aren’t questions, but instead wishes that plummet a person down a rabbit hole lacking a bottom. A journey nowhere because they’ve nowhere real to go. Instead, they’re a wishful past without a future.
They’re also the reason I’ll do all I can to not follow a rabbit down that hole. That rabbit has friends like anxiety, depression, and worse.
The Joys of What IF
Good What IF rabbits explore fascinating and wondrous places. They’re full of possibilities and like to snuggle close and whisper, what if? They introduce me to beloved characters I couldn’t meet anywhere else. They take me on adventures I can’t wait to record so I can share them with others. Those adventures are called short stories, novellas, and novels.
My good rabbits from the land of What IF have diverse interests. Not only do they take me on story adventures, but they also inspire all manner of other activities like drawing, mapmaking, mood board creation, and worldbuilding. They want me to share it all and to appreciate what others do via reading.
There’s a little secret about What IF. It knows its counterpart exists. It also knows how to use those negative thoughts in a constructive way to help others. Thus, the plots I create.
Embracing What IF
IF Only and What IF have similar roots, but take you on dissimilar paths. For me, one rabbit leads down a hole while the other frolics in the sunshine. In a sense, they’re flip sides of the same coin.
In a way, IF Only lost its upper hand the day I returned to college in the 1990s. Maybe it was those What IF whispers that led me back to school. I just know the first novels appeared in 2000 and all at once a new path opened up.
Each story has made me more determined to keep If Only away. That’s why I’m dedicated to exercise, meditation, and yoga. I also pay close attention to maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. It isn’t always easy, but I have What IF on my side.
So, yes, this was a fun, maybe silly, glance at what I do from a different perspective, but isn’t that what writing is all about?