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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Pay it Forward

“Nothing can be made to be of interest to the reader that was not first of vital concern to the writer.” – John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

I discovered this quote when I Googled “how to write when life sucks”. My life doesn’t suck right now. But it has been a stressful few days. Which means it’s not easy to be motivated, not easy to write, not easy to even care about writing sometimes. That’s where my commitment (to myself and, posthumously, to Debbie) helps me out. Habit is what has me here facing the page when I don’t feel like I have much of any worth to say.

So when I Googled ‘how to write when life sucks’, I was a little surprised to see the John Gardner quote. I expected to see things like “just set aside your problems and write anyway.” Logical advice, but kinda fluffy. Not much substance.

Holly Lisle has a great workshop I want to get—“21 Ways To Get Yourself Writing When Your Life Has Just Exploded.” My life hasn’t exploded, but like Holly, I’ve been there, when even getting up in the morning and feeding myself were huge challenges I wasn’t sure I could overcome. I figure, if Holly can show me how to write when I’m in that state, those same tools can help me write when I’m just scuffed up a little.

John Gardner’s quote is a glimpse into one of those tools. I take what I’m feeling right now and give it to a character. Or maybe I should say ‘impose’ it. My poor characters have suffered migraines, strep throat, spilled milk, and paper cuts right along with me. Use your present state to fuel your writing. Pay it forward. If you’re feeling busy and overwhelmed, take five or ten minutes and put your character in that place. You may not use it in your final draft, but at the very least it will help round out your character. And if you’re lucky, your current angst can be extrapolated into your story for added depth.

So, when life sucks, or when you just have the blahs – write anyway.

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