But Mrs. Rice simply didn't understand. My thumb was the toggle switch to my imagination… and vital to my work as a storyteller.
You see, the process is the same for all of us, regardless of level. Like all forms of artistic endeavor, writing comes from utter immersion in creative thought. As a result, writers lose track of copious amounts of time, are often late for meetings and sometimes forget them altogether. Our friends and family understand - at least we hope they do, because we cannot help ourselves. We must create and tell stories. And I can't be blamed, because I was born with the need to tell stories.
My father told stories passed to him from his father and my dad continued the tradition, adding his own hilarious stories from his childhood and college days. And, from the time I could pull up on his armchair to listen, I wanted to be a storyteller, too — a keeper of the flame.
I began writing short stories, songs and poetry as soon as I mastered the pencil and kept diaries throughout my youth (and have them still). Since then I've had several "turning points" — publishing, productions, prizes, commissions, etc. — and I'm moved forward one thing and one thing only: the next story to catch my attention as it unfurled itself within my imagination.
What kind of stories? Well, I believe in the strength of a woman's voice and am fascinated by the inherent differences between the sexes. And I believe the only one way to create real characters and bring them to life is to know those differences well. And what I've learned from that study has also helped shape my career decisions as I struggle to make my way in a field in which the majority of decision makers have trouble sharing their toys with the other half of the room. But that bias hasn't always been a bad thing: it's one of the main reasons I decided to form my own production company and begin producing my own work. Also made me want to fight for the underdog.
And I've always wanted to tell stories that reveal the past. The past has so much more to tell us than today, and if you set that truth into the framework of a story arc, you build a doorway people are willing to pass through. And if you tell that story well, they'll be willing to turn and face history... hard history.
Lastly, I believe the words of a former play writing instructor: "Great playwrights ask important questions and try to answer them".
For all the above, I feel lucky and blessed to be a writer.
And although I kicked the thumb-sucking habit long ago, I thank heaven I never stopped daydreaming.
Meredith Bean McMath is the Managing Director of Run Rabbit Run Productions, Inc., a prize-winning playwright, award-winning historian and a critically acclaimed stage director.