Monday, December 19, 2016

Where Does What We Write Come From?

Today's post is a repeat, originally published several yeas ago. I ran across it the other day and decided it was worth a repeat performance.

I think the quote above might be construed by some people to be strictly for memoir writers. After all, aren't they writing about events and people from the past? Yes, they are, but I think other genres of writing can fit into this quote, as well.

Whatever we write comes from both our creative side and our life experiences. If I'm going to write a novel about sled dog races in Alaska, it's going to be a far better story if I've had some experience in the activity, or at least been around it. Consider this--a writer telling a story like just mentioned need not have ever actually been in one of those exciting races, but maybe he lived in Alaska as a kid and remembers seeing men (and women) prepare for the races. He might have lived where someone in his small town trained the dogs or worked on the sleds. He may have taken a trip with his family to follow the route the racers took. All of that could give him an understanding and some knowledge of this cold weather sport.

I grew up in a very large apartment building community. I know what living on the 3rd floor with no elevator is like. If I write a story about a family that lives in similar circumstances, I can give a sense of place from my own life experience. The theme and plot of the story may have nothing to do with the apartment living, but my experience will let me give a realistic picture of the setting. I'm tasting it twice--having lived it and looked back at it. Wherever you lived in your earlier years will be of some importance in your writing. Much of it may come through subconsciously but you'll be doing that taste life twice section of today's quote.

Think about the places you've lived, jobs you've had over the years, perhaps more than one marriage--all those things will present themselves in some form in your writing. As I said, you may not do it consciously, but it's all stored in our memory bank and has a way of seeping through into our writing.

The older you are, the more experiences you have to taste life twice in your writing.


  1. Great post, Nancy. If I can't taste the experience, (writing a murder mystery, for example), I can always fall back on times I wanted to wring someone's neck, right? But seriously, I'm no writing a mystery set in Edinburgh and I'm loving being able to transport myself mentally to places I visited in October!
    And, overall, yes, it's revisiting the emotions we've had even if they weren't pleasant. Have a lovely Christmas!

  2. Debra, thanks for your comment. The book you're writing sounds interesting. I loved Edinburgh when we visited several years ago. A friend and I managed to get locked in a big dept store after it closed. Long story, but turned out fine. :)