Monday, 4 November 2013
If I could turn back time/ Writing from real experience
When I was in grade 7, myself and one other kid from my class were chosen for a special outing during school time to an authors seminar at the local marina, Hillary's Boat Harbour. Not only did this get me out of a whole day of school, I got to go to the beach, have a special fish and chip lunch, get to hang out with the boy I had a crush on (yes he was that other kid) and I got to listen to these pretty interesting writers talk about their craft. It was a great day!
Now honestly, back then I had no desire whatsoever to be a writer (see post I was never going to be a writer for details) so I listened with fascination, simply because I had a love of books and making up stories. I really didn't appreciate what I had been handed, an opportunity to learn from those who had made it in the writing game. There was maybe eight of them all together and they each took at turn at speaking, giving great insight and expounding their knowledge on us next generation of possible writers. I do wish now that I'd listened a little more carefully or had the foresight to take notes, stick them in an envelope with the label OPEN IN 10 YRS TIME WHEN YOU CAN ACTUALLY APPRECIATE WHAT GOLD IS IN YOUR HANDS. Or perhaps if I built myself a time machine (not unlike the Delorean from Back to the Future, because I'd want to travel in style) I could go back to 1990 and give myself a swift kick up the backside, tell myself to stop ogling boy crush because it would never come to anything and bloody well pay attention... Of course while there, I could actually listen myself and take notes. Unfortunately while I spend my days in a fantasy world, in real life all I can do is shake my head and give a tremendous sigh. I mean how was I supposed to know at that age that I was going to grow up and change?! What's sadder still... And this is something that does really bother me... Is that we had the opportunity that afternoon to sit by the beach and write to our hearts content... once we finished we could hand it in and they would publish them as a book and send us all a copy with our little story's and poems in. Well I was inspired by the water glistening and waves churning and wrote some tale that featured the sea...but I never finished it! and hence, never submitted it! So when I received my copy of the book, it didn't even have my work in it... How sad is that?! (Note to self... Build said time machine, travel back to 1990 and kick butt twice as hard.)
Okay so I was a little slow on the up take of figuring out that my passion really lay in story writing but let me tell you, the whole experience wasn't a complete wash over, there was one piece of advice that really hit me and I have never forgotten. One of the ladies spoke in length about making sure you write about what you know... She put it in this way... when you're a kid, write about being a kid because it's something you can relate to, something you understand ... But if you try to write about being an adult, when you're a kid, it doesn't work so well because it's just your perception of what being an adult is (and let's face it, children's ideas of adults lives are far removed from what actually goes on). However, she said that as an adult you can write about being an adult, because you are one so you have some experience in that but also you can write about being a kid because you were one and you probably remember something about what it feels like and what's important to you at that time.
Here's what I get from that nowadays.
I truly think this author was onto something,
There is something to be said about writing from a point of view of experience, I'll give you an example... Before I moved to Canada I had barely experienced snow... While it does snow in the mountains in Australia, it is really bizarre to see it anywhere else... So I had been in a couple centremetres of snow and that's about it. What I could tell you about it back then was limited, it was cold and wet and made my lips blue. I could on the other hand, tell you all about living in a tropical place, with excessive heat and humidity... Hence my first book is featured in a hot climate... Because that is what I really knew about. Since being in Canada I could tell you so much more about snow, what it feels like, how it sounds when it crunches under your feet, the feeling of snowflakes floating down upon you and what it looks like as these flakes descend from the heavens. I could go on and on about it... But I won't. But you are likely to see snow in my next book... Not only see it but experience it because I can now write about it from a different point of view.
I do think we have a lot of room for imagination... I mean I am fortunate enough to have never suffered from cancer but I have known people who have had various forms of it, so I could probably write a pretty believable character who suffered from cancer using what I know of it and how I imagine it to feel. I don't think I could write it as compelling as someone who has actually experienced cancer but I guess I wouldn't be trying to either.
So while I still agree with that author, that writing from a point of view of experience and real knowledge is far more compelling than writing from second or third hand experience, I also think that a person can write something that is rich and interesting about a subject they have never experienced... I mean, we are writers and our minds are in tune with empathy and putting ourselves in other peoples shoes... It's what we do. But I think if you can write from as many true perspectives that you can... anything you do have to use your imagination for will be all that more believable. And hey, there's alot to be said for research and experiments (but thats for another post).
What do think? Writing from experience, Writing from imagination, Or room for both?