Monday, April 13, 2015

Life: It's yours, write it!

(I would just like to point out that I just survived a near death experience. I was sitting at my laptop, typing away, being responsible and doing science...when I heard this demonic buzzing noise. I was instantly transported, mentally, to an earlier hour when I discovered a huge brown, papery bug with antennas and stringy legs on my window. 

By huge, I'm talking half the size of my pinky. I have really long pinkies. Anyway, so I went to go get someone to kill this bug because...uh...I didn't want to break a nail...But I totally forgot until much later, when I slammed the window shut. Apparently, I have terrible short-term memory because I completely forgot AGAIN until about an hour-ish ago when I heard a demonic buzzing noise and saw a flutter of wings in front of my face. The mass of papery brown disgustingness landed on my keyboard and I slammed my laptop shut, literally swallowing screams of terror and jumping off my bed. Boom. For good measure, I applied some extra pressure. Crush. Cautiously, I lifted the discover squished a la bug. Yum. I used about twenty tissues to dispose of it.

Not quite sure why I'm telling you all that...but I survived. Guys, I survived.)

Today I present to you some brilliance written by the incredible Anna from over at WONDERFUL JOY.

When I was a little girl, I would put on plays based on stories I'd written. I'm talking outlandish costumes from my dress up box, a full cast consisting of all the neighborhood kids, and my parents and older siblings seated on couches watching. I loved creating something that people enjoyed (or pretended to enjoy, as my lovely big sister Erin would later tell me). I loved being the center of attention. I loved the happy endings. But most of all, I loved bringing a little literary magic into real life. It was a long time before I realized it was actually real life that made literature so magical.

Anne Lamott once said, "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your story." It's no secret that life can be hard. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things happen to people who don't seem to deserve it. Sometimes your heart gets broken, and sometimes you get stabbed in the back. But as cliché as it sounds, the struggle is part of the story.

You own everything that's ever happened to you. The good, the bad, the ugly, it's all yours. 

Annie had a wonderful post the other day about keeping readers interested and writing what you know. Like her, and many other writers, I used to be confused about the "writing what you know" rule. I got so confused that I actually started writing a book about a ballet dancer. I've now been dancing for eleven years, so I know quite a lot about ballet, but that's not what "writing what you know" really means. (The story was terrible anyway. The main character wanted to get the part of Clara in the Nutcracker, because the boy she liked was cast as the Prince. Then the main character's best friend got the part of Clara. DRAMA.)

What I really wanted to be writing was fantasy, but I thought I couldn't do that. After all, I had never experienced battles between to medieval kingdoms. I had never met a king and queen. I definitely had never dueled a wizard or sorcerer. I didn't know any of this stuff. So how was I supposed to write it? 

Eventually, I started thinking about J.K Rowling. She was just a girl born to a poor family in England. She had certainly never ridden a broomstick or waved a wand or attended Potions class. Yet the world she'd created seemed so real to me. That's when I realized that maybe it was the simple (or sometimes not so simple), every day experiences that make your stories come to life.

J.K Rowling never had the darkest wizard of all time murder her parents, but she did lose her mother to multiple sclerosis. She never experienced the hopeless feeling associated with dementors, or heard their eager, rattling breath, but she did suffer from extreme depression. These experiences weren't pleasant or easy, but Rowling used the pain to give Harry a story. An amazing story, in fact, that has influenced countless lives.

When you create characters, don't think of them as characters. Think of them as real people, with real problems, real personalities, and real emotions. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to make the perfect character, that we forget characters aren't supposed to be perfect. They're supposed to be human. The heroes can make mistakes; the villains can make good choices. We must remember to put a bit of ourselves into all of our characters, that way they seem real.

If you don't put your life into your writing, your story won't come alive. Remember: you own everything that's ever happened to you. Now go tell your story.


  1. I seriously love creating characters. And as for bugs, I use half a can of Raid for each one.

  2. SO excited to be featured on your blog! And I'm also saying prayers of thanksgiving that no Annie Schlueter's were harmed in the killing of that bug.

  3. I'm so glad you survived that monstrous bug! But you squashed him inside her laptop. EW! LOL!!!

    I use my life as often as I can in my writing. Our lives are a great source of inspiration. :)

    1. Thanks, Chrys! Ugh, it was just so nasty, I panicked!!! Ewwww literally shivering with fear thinking about it right now.

  4. Nice, post, Anna!
    Annie--have you ever seen a Cicada Killer wasp? ( They are HUGE--like two inches long--and scary as anything, but apparently really "friendly." I saw some last year when we were at a pool party at a friend's house, and almost had a heart attack when my toddler started running around one!

    1. EW EW EW! I am literally never sleeping again.

  5. Brand new follower here, dropping by from A to Z.

    Nice to meet you, Anne!

    2015 A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Matthew MacNish from The QQQE

  6. Someone once said and I'm sure it wasn't me--until now. We all have a life, now go write about it.

  7. Ugh bugs!!! Definitely when shoes come in handy. ;)

    I totally base my writing around instances I experience.

  8. Glad you weren't eaten by that monstrous bug.

    I've never subscribed to the "write what you know" philosophy. I think it was some crazy old professor who came up with that back in 1961