By Nichole Giles
In every writing class I’ve ever taken, the subject of “what if” has come up. “What if” your character does this? “What if” this happens? “What if” that happens? It’s a question writers learn to ask constantly as they are perfecting their plots.
But sometimes “what if” is not a good thing. In the nonfiction of real life, sometimes you have to close your eyes and ignore all the “what ifs” raging through your mind. “What if” that doctor had caught your child’s appendicitis (rather than convincing you it was the stomach flu) before it burst? “What if” you hadn’t followed your instinct to take him to another doctor a few days later? “What if” you had left him home sick while you went shopping? “What if” you had come home and he was dead? “What if” the surgery didn’t go well? “What if” he got pneumonia in the hospital after surgery? “What if” you lived far away from your family during a critical time when you really needed help from them? “What if” you lived fifty years ago instead of now? What if…what if…what if….
In real life, “what if” becomes guilt, anger, and unattainable wishes. Sometimes, you just have to stop wondering “what if” and be proud of yourself for going with your gut. Because you did take your child to the second doctor, and you didn’t leave him near death to go shopping, and he didn’t die. You can be glad his surgery went well, and even though he got pneumonia, he fought it off beautifully. And your ward and family rallied, offering more help than you knew what to do with. Today, it is 2007, not 1957, and technology is on your side.
There are days when “what if” needs to be left completely alone, so the writer in you can live real life. In real life, “what if” is not always your friend. I should know. I’ve been “what if-ing” myself for the last two weeks. Trust me. It only makes things worse. I’ve decided to leave my “what if’s” for fiction. After all, that’s where they belong.