Monday, May 23, 2011

Grist

As a writer I've discovered that my life experience feeds into my writing. Writers by nature are keen observers of life. We observe. We ponder. We write. As we grow in the craft everything becomes grist for the mill and a subtle transformation takes place. Whereas the observation/living used to come first and our writing tapped into the well of our experience, the balance begins to shift as we actively seek out experiences that enhance our writing. Eventually, for some, all of living becomes subservient to the demands of the pen.

My family and friends have not yet realized that having a writer in their midst can be perilous. Not only does my life nourish my writing; theirs do too. My niece is a sailor; a teenage girl in one of my WIPs is also a sailor, and during the coming summer vacation my niece will be my research assistant: she'll be teaching me to sail. I'm looking forward to our sessions in the gulf so that I can write knowledgeably about this character in the novel, but I'll have to remind myself to be in the moment out there on the ocean instead of distractedly trying to figure out exactly how my character manages to get wrecked on a reef, and how the jibsheet and mast might be used as survival tools.

My niece, far right, with her teammates

The problem with my nearest and dearest is that they do interesting things. They don't stare at keyboards all day and night or daydream their lives away plotting stories. My son is a surfer and traceur; if you don't know what that is, you soon will as parkour is well on its way to becoming a mainstream sport. My sister is an equestrienne; my mom's an ace gardener and horticulturist; my brother's a motor boat enthusiast, scuba diver and sport fisherman. One of my friends is a racing enthusiast; I can thank him for whatever knowledge of cars and performance driving I've managed to garner.

My son, airborne on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale

If my people were all nebbishy accountants who spent their spare time watching television I might not be so tempted to mine the ores of their lives for material for my stories. As it is, their passions inspire me and feed into my passion: writing. Right now they think it's fun to serve as inspiration for the writer in their midst, never suspecting that the coin might be two-sided.

I've seen one writer buddy's friendship with a colleague implode because he based a character on her and the portrayal was unflattering in the extreme. An acquaintance of mine accused me a few years ago of plotting to put him in a book. (He flatters himself.) On I go, like a good miner, collecting precious chunks of the lives around me and incorporating them into my work, forging them into new metal. My family and friends are happy to assist; as far as they're concerned it's all good. I suspect the clock is ticking on their naivety.


10 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm using all kinds of imagery from our recent trip in the story I'm working on now. It's just what's there in your head.

Debs Carr said...

I remember being astounded when my brother thought I'd based a character on him, then when I looked into it I could see why he'd come to that conclusion. I hadn't by the way.

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, indeed. You use what's there. A change of scene often has the effect of kickstarting a stuck writer.

Liane Spicer said...

Debs, don't they know what 'fiction' is? ;) Characters might resemble people we know superficially but what we create with the likeness is something quite new.

Jewel Amethyst said...

A friend of mine thought the sexy ravishing hero in one of my books was based on her husband. I told her beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Liane Spicer said...

Jewel, HAHAHAHA! Some people are rather presumptuous, aren't they!

KeVin K. said...

A prior employer of mine had some skewed ideas on where writers get their ideas. In addition to the usual HIPAA forms stating I would not divulge any personal or medical information about people the agency served, she had me sign one she'd typed promising not to use any of our clients as characters in stories.

On the other hand, I do mine the lives and minds of everyone around me for useful grist, so maybe she wasn't that far off the mark after all.

btw: A friend of our son's was trying to get him interested in freerunning -- which until I followed your link I thought was the American name for parkour (y'know, like "soccer," since we already used "football" for something else). My son thought that at 25 he was past the age of learning a new and potentially injurious sport that involved leaping between rooftops above concrete alleys. A month later he tore his Achilles tendon playing a nice safe game of basketball.

We're all going to be looking for your account of learning to sail.

Liane Spicer said...

KeVin, your prior employer certainly covered all the bases there. Wow.

I used to think parkour and freerunning were the same until my son informed me otherwise. The boundaries seem pretty fluid, though, as in his group some of the guys consider themselves freerunners and they all practise tricking (which looks to me like a combination of pure gymnastics and breakdancing).

Your son was right about the seeming danger. When Richard first started doing this I'd never heard of it and all I knew was that he was spending his evenings leaping from rooftop to rooftop at a local hospital complex over, yes, concrete alleys. Basketball can seem like playing in a sandbox by comparison - though we know it isn't.

Debi said...

Syncronicity, Liane. This is great as part of the continuing conversation that includes my post on people collecting. What a family you have!

Liane Spicer said...

Debi, they're quite entertaining. I'm the weird one who likes to stick in her room for days (weeks, months if I could manage that) and write.