Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writing advice: Write what haunts you...whatever that might be

The last couple of days I started jotting down notes for an idea using stuff from my life. I don't usually draw from my own life because to be honest, it hasn't been all that exciting or marked by amazing accomplishments. I just sort of exist.

But for some reason I'm suddenly jotting down little experiences that have stayed with me over the years and trying to work out how I could turn them into a novel-length story. And not the good things, the other things. One of my notes: "This could be cathartic."

Just little things. Nothing that the average person would consider life-changing, good bad or otherwise. I would say I consider these experiences to "haunt" me based on the question, "Why do I still remember this stupid thing after all these years?" It's not like I've had a life of epic tragedy, but everyone has their internal scars. Which is why I was so happy to read these quotes from Mary Casanova's article at Strand Magazine:

When I first heard other authors talk about writing what haunts you, I thought it meant I had to have come from a dreadful, abused childhood.

I worried that my early years...doomed me as a writer. There simply hadn't been enough pain and anguish.

Most of us are fortunate that our lives weren't spent enduring years of misery, but for some people there are seemingly small things that end up defining them, or at least haunting them. There are days when I can't remember what I had for lunch the day before, but there are memories from childhood and my earlier adulthood that seem to have followed me all through life. Things that might not seem like big deals to others, but for some reason I can't shake them.

Sometimes little things become big things, at least to the individual that they happen to. And for me, I think there's a story in that, or at least that can come out of that.

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