OK, so in my last post, we established something I hate to admit — I’m on the road to old. In some ways that totally sucks, but in others, it’s amazing! Though our bodies get older, our brains (barring any debilitating disease), continue to grow. My brain is 25, as I mentioned before, but the reality is that I have decades of experience that my actual 25-year-old brain had not yet experienced. And as a writer, it makes SO much difference.
That’s not to say that you young’uns can’t be writers, but you have to experience everything positive that you can. As nature will out, you’ll have some negative experiences thrown at you, too. In the game of hopscotch, you can step on a number or you can step on a line. When you have a negative experience, record every bit of it with your mind and on paper or in type. Remember how it feels, so that you can grow from that hard place, and later, use it in your writing.
When I was little…
I remember these things from my earliest days on earth:
- Riding Shetland ponies at the Pittsburgh Children’s Zoo. (My fave thing to do.)
- Going to the Pittsburgh airport (the old one, before it became International), and watching the planes land and depart. (Yes, pre-9/11 you could do things like that.) I also remember riding the coin-operated merry-go-round over and over again. My grandpa would do anything I wanted.
- Sitting with my sister and her friends (they were in high school) for lunch every day, and them bringing me presents on my 3rd birthday. How cool was that? I remember an amethyst ring, the girl who gave it to me, and what she looked like then. And I remember how much I loved that ring. I kept it for years, though now, it’s gone. No idea where, but it spurred my lifelong romance with sparklies.
- Getting lost at a school picnic at Kennywood Park, and being scared to death. I was eight, and I remember a kind neighbor calming me and telling me my parents would be back. They were, of course, but you know how that feels when you’re a little kid, right? The world as I knew it was ending!
All of these experiences are usable for writing, even so far back, and I do believe I’ve used the fear — that feeling of being a lost little girl. Maybe you were afraid to ride a bike for the first time, or maybe a dog chased you. Those things are usable!
But I also recall the joy of having someone under your spell (my grandpa), and the freedom that only childhood gives you. Sure, you’re within your parents’ control, but you have little responsibility, if any. Do you remember how that feels? Don’t you still want to go outside and play instead of sitting at your boring work desk in the summertime? Write it. Remember how happy you felt.
Even if you don’t write a story/book or whatever, write the experience when it happens to you. Or, even if it was years ago — write what you remember. It will help you to create real characters. I have several journals and I peruse them now and then. They take me back and remind me. Sometimes, you’ll sit and cry. Sometimes, you’ll actually laugh out loud. Life is rich. If yours isn’t — DO something about it. You were meant to learn and experience everything you can.
Not sure you watch reality TV, but I’ve lately become a fan of two shows: The Voice (musician in my early days, yes I wanted to be a rock star when I was young) and America’s Next Top Model. I love contests of greatness. But my point: In both shows, though the contestants are doing different things, of course, the coaches tell them ALL one thing: “IT HAS TO COME FROM WITHIN.”
And so with writing, it’s the same. Crawl inside your ugliest darkness and revel in past glories. Remember how they felt. Write them.