We all carry baggage with us, some of us more visibly than others. We can’t change our past, even though we would all love to.
As I sit here staring at the budding trees outside my window, I’m turning over how much experience plays into my creative process. I know there is quite a bit of my writing I’ve never experienced in real life. Barfights, assassination attempts, and visiting exotic planets leap into my list of have-nots. But as I turn things over in my mind, I wonder how many of my scenes can be extrapolated from real events in my life?
For that matter, how many scenes in our favorite books find their roots in reality?
I’ve never had my family brutally murdered by a rival han, but I have lost loved ones . I’ve never had my wife die, but I’ve had moments in my marriage where that felt like the reality. I’ve never floated on the Black, but I have had moments (especially in this last year) where I felt like the nearest person was light-years away. I haven’t been to an alien planet, but I have been to every continent except Africa and Antarctica.
As a writer, it’s my craft to take my experiences and extrapolate them into something exotic, into a scene that resonates on a core level.
Part of writing for me, is taking some of the negative experiences in my life and turning them into something that is believable for my characters while helping me process what has happened to me. I would love to say everything in my life has been rainbows and sunshine, but I can’t. Nobody can say that.
The funny thing is that it’s not just me. Writers throughout time have just been channeling and processing their life through the pages. Stephen Crane wrote Maggie a Girl of the Streets to convey his time as a reporter in the industrialized NYC. Mary Shelley conveyed the trauma of losing a child through Frankenstein. Even Hemingway used his life experiences in the Spanish Civil War as kernels for the creative process.
Life is the creative process.
The upside is that it’s not all the bad things in life that drive writing. While there are there plenty of negative memories that drive scenes, there are also wonderful snippets of my life that give a touch of depth to my characters. Margo might be the amalgamation of all things positive from my own children fused into one fictional being.
From spitting out food, to riding on Atom’s back, to sleeping at the most improbably times, Margo encapsulates so many wonderful experiences from my own life.
I don’t believe it’s possible to create without drawing from those snippets of experience.
I’ll leave you to figure out where reality and fiction intersect. In the meantime, keep on reading, keep going for walks, and keep on flying the Black.