Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Are What You Write

The other day my daughter and I were talking about an author we've both read. We're not naming any names. She's very famous and totally brilliant, but devastatingly egotistical. You read the first line of one of her books and you can sense she thinks she's the divine goddess of fiction.

Eh, maybe she is. If I was her, I'd probably feel that way too.

But it got me thinking. The scariest thing about writing, and especially letting other people read what you write, is that you can't write a paragraph without revealing exactly what you are. Unless you're hiding yourself on purpose. And if you do that, your writing will be flat and dead.

If your writing is alive, the life in it comes from you, and is colored by everything that you are. When I write I pour in everything I think, everything I know, everything I've learned or felt or done, plus all my daydreams and nightmares. Everything counts, nothing is wasted.

And readers can see exactly who I am.

So in order to write the kind of books I want to write, I've got to be the kind of me that can write those kind of books. I want to write fun adventure stories full of action, mystery, and wonder. So I try to be a fun and active person who is always pushing new horizons and learning new things. Yes, I actually do work at this. It would be so easy for me to hide out in my room with my computer all day and play with my imaginary friends, but then what kind of adventures would we have? I have to get out and climb trees, fly kites, audition for musicals (even when I have no business doing so), bug my neighbors to teach me new ukulele strums, try making my own cheese, build sand sculptures on the beach, listen to lots of Irish fiddle music, spend an hour out on my balcony watching the stars, and go "spot hunting" with my five-year-old.

"Come with me, spot hunter." I said in my deepest voice as I handed my youngest son a cleaning cloth. I twisted the nozzle of my cleaning spray into the ON position. "We're going on a spot hunt."

We crept down the hall, peering right and left.

"THERE'S ONE!" I shot a black hand print with a stream of foaming spray. "GET IT!"

Grinning from ear to ear, my little boy scrubbed that spot right off the wall.

"Oh, my gosh!" one of my daughter's friends stood at the screen door. "Your mom is so fun."


The other day, for the first time in many months, I went around and read all my friends' blogs. And I loved it, because your wonderful words are all so YOU! Thanks for blogging, everyone, because every sentence lets me see the beauty, wisdom, humor, and joy in your hearts.

So what do you do to be the person who writes your kind of book?


  1. I wrote a lenthy blog post, thought I'd done and the silly captcha was just popping up as I was closing the window and I lost it all. Google are great for not letting spam through. Nothing gets through them and I don't have captcha on.

    What I said basically is that spending time with the kids is great, but then I do my day job where the world is a little seedier and I get a full mixture of life to inspire my writing.

  2. I spend time with my grandkids, doing things with them and reading to them, which helps with my writing for children. I love how you got your son to help you clean, have fun doing it and impressed a friend!

  3. So true, your post above. We must live, and live fully, and be truly ourselves, so our writing reflects not just who we were, but who we know we ought to be. Somewhere, in the living and writing, it all comes right.
    Having said that, I clearly need more adventures in my life!! Haven't climbed a tree in yonks...

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone! Shaista, I especially like what you said about our writing reflecting who we ought to be. More than once I've discovered that I've given a flaw in myself to one of my characters, and use them to explore how to overcome it.

  5. Oh my goodness, great question.
    Listening. (I need to do it much better.)
    Seeing. Everyone's lives are filled with adventures that seem like ordinary experiences - to them.
    Doing. You covered that marvelously (I want to be you!)
    Thinking - a lot! Thanks for making me think!

  6. It seems like this is only a problem once you've managed to write as yourself, which isn't a trivial feat. It's also interesting to see what other people read into your writing, if they know you. Whenever I had a difficult month, I'd sub something very rough to my writer's group, and hearing their reactions gave me a lot of insight into what they thought of me. The one guy who always seemed to "get" me was Steve Stirling (SM Stirling). If you look at the stuff the guy writes, masculinist adventure fantasy, you'll see (I hope) how different we are as people, so I never knew what to make of the fact that he could get into my headspace so easily.

    The arrogance of the bestselling author might be bona fide arrogance, or it might be fear. It takes courage to put words on a page and believe other people want to read them, so people without courage often adopt arrogance instead.

  7. Wow, I've been thinking a lot about this lately and decided I needed to put some more wahoo in my life. Every life needs a little bit of wahoo. I'm trying to add more adventures with my family, giggles and stories with my kids, and I even took up longboarding. Fun.

  8. Good stuff, Jonene. Thanks for making me think too. And Emily, I like the way you always look down deep and make me see my words in another way. Oh, and Leisha, thanks for the pancakes. You were the adventurous first guest at Carlson's Bed and Breakfast.

  9. I love this. And what do you mean, people will know who I am, if they read my work? *runs and hides* :)


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