Where I write

Where I write

March 1, 2012

Stepping Outside the Box

This is where I spend my mornings writing, alone, (thought sometimes I wish someone would write my novel for me and let me watch The View instead) listening to quiet music and to the voices in my head (you all knew I was crazy anyway) that fuel my imagination and guide my fingers as they tap tap tap on the keyboard to create, at least that's the goal, entertaining characters in my novel. Yes. I am still working on my novel. Deadline is still December 2012. Sigh.

The common refrain by writing teachers is "write what you know." And writers like Jane Austen did so brilliantly and with much success. Austen  wrote about people residing in the English countryside, and Ernest Hemingway wrote about strong men and sports, but if that motto is true how did Stephanie Meyers write about vampires and werewolves for her Twilight novels and did J.K. Rowling ever attend a school for wizards? I work with odd people at the restaurant, but I don't think they suck blood or ride brooms. Hmmmm maybe a few of the servers could ride a broom.

It's important for writers to take leaps with their imaginations. My imagination needs help, so I try to step outside my office, even though it is quite pleasant and calm and safe, and meet new people like this fellow I met recently. His name is Enigma.
 He has tattooed his body from head to toe. As we shook hands I said, "I've never met anyone like you." And that's true. As both a newspaper reporter and a waitress, I've met federal judges, farmers, strippers, and literary writers with fancy degrees  but never a man who tattooed his body with tiny green puzzle pieces. His hands were as soft as a priest's. I've met priests, too. Anyway, if I was given the assignment to write this character, make the reader understand him, I would have to really use my imagination, step outside my social circle, my own background prejudices, and try to understand what makes this man tick. I think that's what writers need to do in order to make their characters real. I don't even have a tattoo (okay that's more information than you wanted to know) so I have to work at setting aside my personal judgments which can be a challenge when you happen across people who look like this.
I tell myself what my sister taught me. At one time these were someones sweet little babies. At one time we all were. And after starting with that thought I think all people still have the same wants and needs and desires (well maybe different desires) as each of us. We are all human.  As a writer, I want to keep my mind as open as possible, only then can my imagination flourish and I can write more creatively, write people that feel real. We are all so very different, and yet all the same. Both Hemingway and Austen were both trying, in their own way, with their own words and imaginations to somehow capture the human experience, love, hate, joy, sorrow, life and death. I used to have a poster on my wall when I was studying journalism in Denver which read: mind like parachute -- function only when open. The older I get, the more I try to remember that poster because people's minds are kinda like cement. With age our minds can get too set, less able to be accepting of people's differences. When I was a kid, I judged less. As a, shall I say mature, writer I want to judge less too. I think it will help me not just as a writer, but as a person, too.

Finally... I just have to add this photo for no other reason than to ask this question. How many of you can swallow an entire yellow balloon? Now there's something to imagine or perhaps aspire?

3 comments:

cbwentworth said...

Lovely post! :-)

I've always believed fiction is the lie that best tells the truth. Ultimately, every story we write and and every character we create reflect something real and beautiful in the world around us.

Rita A. said...

I've already sworn to pass on the tats and I can Easily pass on swallowing a balloon, I'm gagging just thinking about it, so I will go with the writing.
I think you are absolutely right and I love the image of an open parachute and an open mind.
Great post.

SunsetCindi said...

I just love that you always go to fun places and see such cool people. People are so interesting in what they do with their lives and how they express themselves. Good for them to have the chutzpah to be who they want to be. That's the great part of writing, we can be whoever we want to be through our characters. Maybe I'll get that tattoo after all!