From Hook to Book

Life changes how we write.

My gorgeous daughter has left home. Flown away to far off places to live and work for an indefinite time. Taking a little piece of my heart with her, and no doubt changing my psyche in her absence. I suspect, in some small part, changing the way, and how, I write too.

The day-to-day shift in family dynamics and altering circumstances shake up complacency, and our attitudes and perspective. Make us work to a different timetable, with a different mindset, and a changing view.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately how changes in life impact on my writing. Some positively, some not so. Farewells, comings and goings, family changes, heartbreak in losing a beloved Mum, and other treasured friends, weddings and funerals, foreign travel and living briefly abroad have all shaken up my world, my mindset and views over recent years. These changes have altered how I go about writing, and what goes into it. I believe the small, as well as the deeply life altering, events and emotions in our lives feed into the rich database of a writer’s mind to draw back on later or filter through into our stories. I notice the power in some of my more recent writing reflecting this. I can tell where certain emotions are drawn from, though did not consciously do so at the time. Perhaps it was my way of writing through some of my emotions and experience. I never considered I was doing any such thing until musing after receiving some valuable feedback from my critique group.

I pretty much knew where my novel was heading from the start, but, after the critique reports, I realise how death and grief have become pivotal themes. Not my original intention. Is it because so much of my personal emotion has fed into the storyline? Whatever, it has resulted in an unnatural number of deaths within the manuscript. I’m lucky I can play God now and resurrect some of these hapless characters who’ve suffered sometimes horribly, needless deaths.

I wonder too, do life changes and events alter our unique writer’s voice? Not those voices contrived to fit a character but our natural narrator voice.

Grief certainly changes us, but I find it interesting to wonder how much life’s general happenings inform on our writing and change the writers we are too.

Do you think you’ve changed the way you write due to happenings in your outer life? Have they altered your writer’s voice? Do you pick up on aspects of your life feeding into your stories without you intending them to? I’d love to know if change has impacted on your writing. Please feel free to share by leaving a comment.

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15 thoughts on “Life changes how we write.

  1. V. interesting post, Chris. I suppose it’s inevitable that things pop up in our writing. Sometimes I feel as if I’m working things out in my ms. Someone remarked that the first Ranger in Dangers were darker. I wrote these while I was watching my very beloved father die, so looking back my outlook was much darker and full of death than it is now.
    It will be interesting to see how your daughter’s departure affects your writing. Let’s hope you visit her and you do a spot of travel writing!
    Alison

    • Thanks, Alison.
      I did wonder if I’d been writing for a younger audience while Mum was ill whether the same dark tones and themes would have emerged. From your experience with your dear Dad, it seems likely. I’ll be interested to see how it affects other writers too. And if madly positive events perhaps work in the opposite? I’m always keen to know the how, why and what makes us the writers we are. Love to visit Sal. Have vowed to keep fast to my keyboard though, until I finish my novel. 🙂 Chris

  2. Hi Chris,
    Love this post and how it makes me examine why and how I write.
    When I was first in the throes of mania and bipolar disorder I turned to writing my memoir to relay what was happening to me. 🙂

    • Hi Karen, writing a memoir while going through the “real” time must be very challenging and take a great deal of courage. I hope the writing proved a positive force for you in working through what was happening. I’m sure your memoir will be very helpful and inspiring to your readers once it is published. Best wishes, Chris

  3. A really interesting post, Chris. I can very much see myself drawn to different styles of writing depending on where I’m at emotionally. And although I’m not ready to write about my dad’s death just yet, I have no doubt that that will filter through my work at some point in the future. I guess we all have a well within us that we draw from when we write. Sometimes that well is full of crystal clear, beautiful water and other times it’s a bit murkier…

  4. Another great post, Chris,

    I think that life definitely changes how we write – sometimes it is temporary because our mood is affected by what’s happening around us. Other changes can be permanent – we can start to see things from a different perspective because of something we have experienced in our life.

    Thanks for the post. It raises lots of interesting questions. Life definitely provides light and shade to our creations.

    • Thanks, Dee.
      I like changes in perspective. I think once the darkness lifts, the ability to write those deep and tumultuous emotions remain and add to our writing breadth. If only we didn’t have to go through some of the gut-wrenching times in life to gain such benefits. I guess that’s life, and death, though. None of us escape.
      Chris

  5. Certain aspects of our lives are bound to creep in in some way or another. Sometimes it is is the little things or the emotions. I remember what it was when we were first were separated from our son and then later our daughter. It takes some coming to terms with. But it’s all part of growing up and change for parents as well as kids. Writing helps. Even though the situation is different some of that of change and separation and dealing with it comes through in Streets on a Map, my newest novel

    • Thanks, Dale. I expect permanent changes make the greatest difference. I’ll be interested to analyse how my writing might have changed when I go back to other genres I’ve put on hold while writing this novel. Best wishes and congratulations on your new novel “Streets on a Map”.
      🙂 Chris

  6. I think everthing we experience shapes our writing – both our voice and our viewpoint. Gives us new ways of looking at things – and stronger awareness of emotions and responses. That can only benefit our writing.

    I trust your daughter’s time is richly rewarding – and that Mum doesn’t miss her too much. xx

    • I agree, Kat. Not just on experiences shaping our writing. I think changes shape our world view and our responses to people and events too, so can’t they help impacting on our inner world to feed back into our writing.

      I’ll miss Sal like crazy, but I’m so excited for the fabulous adventure she’s embarked on. She’s so ready for it, saved for it, planned for it. I think it’s a positive for both of us. Funny how easily hubby and I are getting into pleasing ourselves too. 🙂 🙂

  7. Hi Chris, thought-provoking post. I think too though that the opposite can happen. I have a friend who suffers deeply through the actions of a family member – bad, soul destroying stuff that she has no control over, yet impacts on with each new episode. Yet she writes beautiful, light, warm romances that give me pause. I have asked on many occassions how she can do this while there is such turmoil aound her. Her answer is to let the work overtake her; absorb her – and she uses it as a buffer against the pain.

    Me? I have some ongoing problems that feel like they’re ripping my heart out and when it’s bad and the pain and stress overtakes, it paralyzes my writing. I always figure though, that this is because I write mostly funny stuff; humour. And it’s hard to be funny if you feel like crying.

    I do feel that as creative people we’re sponges that absord so many things – but that we’re also so, so fragile at times. Such is the creative being… (or is that just me being neurotic again!! Sigh – probably)

    And as one who has had most of her children leave home, move away (and then move back at times!), I do feel your pain. When out first daughter left to go to the country to teach, it felt like someone had turned off all the electricity. With her energy suddenly gone, we all floundered for a while.

    Take care, and hugs to you on your daughter. Kerri Lane/Kaz Delaney

    • Hi Kerri

      Thank you for posting and sharing your feelings. I can imagine it’s too polar and difficult to write humour when engulfed in pain and stress. I admire your friend’s ability to write through, around and over her heartache and troubles.

      I think our ability to absorb emotions, both our own and others, enables we writers to process and then translate them into our stories. We creative people are sensitive beings indeed. For better and sometimes for worse. (And not neurotic at all.)

      Best wishes for your ongoing problems to ease or sort soon, Kerri, so you can refind your health and humorous voice.

      My daughter’s leaving changes our household, and leaves a big gap. We’re lucky that the joys of Skype, sms and email make it too easy to keep in touch. I think such comings and goings affect the mood and tone in our writing short term. It’s the big stuff of recent years that I notice has created shifts, both in what’s fed into my writing, and my ability to connect with grief and powerful sad emotions in much more raw and personal ways.

      Best wishes, Chris

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