It’s the first of May and yet another reminder of how fast time flies! I swear I was just celebrating New Year’s yesterday. There’s been so much going on this year that I feel as if I’m trailing in a race and constantly trying to play catch up. On the other hand, so far, it’s been the good kind of race—the kind you don’t mind running even if you don’t win at the end, so I really shouldn’t be complaining. Of course, life would be just slightly easier if my cat would get off my arm while I’m trying to type this blog, but I guess you can’t have everything. 😉 I swear, sometimes I feel like an evil villain sitting at my computer because of this ever-present cat, but I don’t think Furball was quite the pest to Doctor Claw that my cat is to me.
Anyway, I digress…mwahahahaha—ahem, sorry, that just slipped out. I have no idea where that came from.
Last week, I had a minor, casual (not pants-crapping) terrifying encounter that got me to thinking about writing…after I had a little sit down to calm my nerves. You see, I was going for a nightly stroll to avoid the heat of day, but still get my blood flowing and get my stretch on (I spend a lot of time at a computer and suffer from chronic tension headaches if I don’t get out and walk occasionally). I carry a flashlight/beating stick, but I like to walk in the low light, especially when I’m on the sidewalk in a developed neighborhood. (Keeps my night vision sharp) I keep an eye on what’s going on around me, but thought nothing of stepping over the light-colored stick in the middle of the sidewalk. It wasn’t until I was past it that I got to thinking that the stick was a little too wavy for the way sticks naturally grow. So, a couple steps away, I paused, turned around and turned on my flashlight, shining it down on this little beauty.
Needless to say (unless you don’t live in Arizona) I was a little shaken by the close call. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what this is…you may have seen them looking like this:
I’m no expert, but I believe that’s a Mojave rattlesnake. At any rate, that’s a rattle. So…yeah. I was a little shaken. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve encountered plenty of wildlife while out and about, even at night. I’ve been just a foot or two away from a javelina, passed calmly by a watching coyote, and managed to get some excellent video of a herd of deer crossing the street. In fact, I’ve even had a rattlesnake under my car tire in the garage. When it comes to most wildlife, if you leave them alone, they tend to do you the same courtesy. I backed away from this little guy and left him to his basking, but I couldn’t believe how close I’d come to stepping right on top of him.
Which brings me back to writing. (How the heck do I get here, you ask? Well, it’s the way my mind works, I can’t help it!) You see, my life is generally pretty good (and I’d like it to stay that way, thank you very much!) I feel incredibly blessed. It hasn’t always been this way, but the hard times only make the good times that much sweeter. This is a great way to live, but sometimes, it makes writing difficult.
Write what you know! That’s the kind of writing that feels the most authentic. Now don’t get me wrong—some authors are really good at getting inside the heads of characters they have no actual experience with, but it still takes life experiences to understand things like fear, grief, enduring pain, heartbreak, humiliation, sadness…etc. Let’s face it; most people don’t want to read books that are about nice, happy, normal lives. As an author, I torture my characters. I put them through a real wringer. I make them suffer, then make them suffer a little more, then a whole lot more just for the heck of it. If they were real people, I’d be an absolute monster—mwahahahaha! (There it goes again! I don’t know why that keeps happening! 😉 ) But the end result is a great story. How do I get inside their heads and explain how they’re feeling when they’re suffering, though?
It’s because I’ve suffered too. Maybe nowhere near as much as my characters have, but I know the feelings they’re going through. I know fear, pain, and heartache. I know what it feels like to have hope dashed upon the pavement. I know what the ache of slow, chronic suffering feels like, and I can also empathize with the sharp stab of immediate emotional (and physical) pain. These are life experiences that have been hard won. They are memories that lay in my mind like scars that I poke and prod whenever I write to get just the most authentic reaction for my characters.
When life starts getting a little too good, these memories fade a bit, and in a panic, I worry that the emotions in my stories won’t feel as real anymore. Then, I have a little scare like I did last week, and I realize that I don’t need to live a nightmare every day of my life to understand the darkness. I’ve seen the edge of the abyss, and I can describe it accurately enough without falling into it.
So my takeaway from this incident is the reminder that every experience you have in life can be a learning one, even small ones (that could have been a big deal!)
I’ve also learned to walk earlier in the evening, before it gets dark. 😉 I don’t need good writing material that badly!
Let me know what you think about this in the comments below. For the record, yes, I’ve already been called reckless in not so nice words. I’ve learned my lesson and am properly chastised. 😉