Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writing from the heart

She Writes has an interesting post about wishes here, and I was thinking about that today. Along with myriad other wishes large and small, my overwhelming one right now is that I could spare my husband the next six months or so of his father dying. My father-in-law called Friday night to ask my husband to go with him to sell his house and set his affairs in order. The cancer’s back and it’s everywhere and it’s sooner rather than later for him. It’s a terrible thing to watch a parent or child or loved one die.

I’m saying this here because Piedmont Writer also had an interesting post on how weather around her affects her writing. It doesn’t affect me; the weather is what it is in the story, not what’s around me. My characters are hot or cold, wet or dry as the setting dictates. What does affect my writing is what is going on around me in real life and often, what I am teaching at the time.

I’ve spent all day researching genocide for an elective I will be teaching next year. Elements of genocide from Rwanda found their way into a novel I was writing during my teaching of that.

Elements of my writing that include setting, tone, dialogue, theme, and all their intersecting points come from life around me. So given my husband and my father-in-law and my curriculum prep, I expect that my writing will tend toward the dark for a while.

So what’s the bleed-through? What affects you and your writing?


  1. How sweet are you to link me! Thank you. I wish I could spare you watching your husband hurt for his father, and both of them what they are going through.


  2. Thank you for the thought provoking post. And thank you for the kind wishes. I appreciate them.

  3. I'm sorry to hear about your father in law. That would be horrible to see a person suffer like that; I guess it's easy to say that at least they will have some time to get more than his affairs in order.

    To the question...I took a series of classes from a writer named Lynn Herring. Her philosophy was that the best writing came from digging deep and facing your worst fears. Using that philosophy, I started writing a novel that I can't even face because I find it much too personal even though the events in the novel have never actually happened directly to me.

    I think my writing is effected by the externals of time and mood, and those two things typically work against me (not enough time and in a grouchy, closed off mood).

    I think your post is well worth pondering and I know how those deeper questions play out in your writing.


  4. Her philosophy was that the best writing came from digging deep and facing your worst fears.

    I think that's a great philosophy and I think it's one the drives my writing.

    And it's fascinating, I think, to discover what those things are in your writing. I've found a real line as to what frightens and offends me as I've written, and the journey has been difficult as well as enlightening.

  5. SJ, I feel for you and your family, considering the difficult times that lie ahead. I know what it's like.

    It's impossible non to have these circumstances affect every aspect of a person's life, but I think that an outlet like the act of writing is indeed helpful to let these emotions bleed through, so you can elaborate and sublimate them.
    It's not enough to keep the pain away completely, granted, but it's still something to lean on.

  6. I'm so sorry Sarah that you and your family have to go through this. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. The hardest part isn't the, knowing, the hardest part is the waiting. Margaret(?) Kubler-Ross has some excellent books on the subject.

    Thanks for the mention. Everything around me affects my writing. My daughter, the dogs, the snow, my mother, the internet, the blogosphere. One little word can change the way I completely write a scene or a bit of dialogue. You remember a few weeks ago, I wasn't feeling well, I put that into my story and it was a brilliant idea because at the end of the scene I realized it made the whole story, more cohesive, more plausible.

  7. Hi, Nym, and thanks. I think you're right, the emotions will bleed through, and it will be a good thing. And like I said, I suspect that means I'll be writer dark(er) for a while. :)

    And thanks PW, I appreciate your good thoughts and wishes. Waiting is difficult at the best of times, and this is definitely not the best of times. But life goes on.

    I absolutely agree with you that one word can change everything. I'm sorry you got sick, but I'm glad that worked out for you.

  8. Hey, SJ, sorry to hear about what your family is going through. There are about nine million platitudes that don't mean a damn when it's you and someone you love; it's something you just grit your way through at best. Our thoughts are with you.

    To your question...I think genre has something to do with it as well. If you're writing about something that happened to you, or if you're writing about what scares you the most, all that can be transmuted, have a sort of protective layer wrapped around it when you're writing science-fiction or horror or gothic. It's a lot more raw, and a lot harder to manage, when it's contemporary fiction, simply because it's closer to the here and now, IMHO. Because there can't help but be a sort of bleed-over between your life and your writing, as it's all couched by perspective.

  9. Thanks for the good thoughts. They mean a lot.

    I think you're right about genre. You can put a layer between you and whatever real life bleed-through you've got going on if you can filter it though another setting or world.

    Contemporary fiction makes that impossible to do. So yeah, there's bound to be a lot more bleed-through.

    And it's always all about perspective. :)