Sunday, June 9, 2013
Writing Under The Influence (Of People, I Mean. Really.)
Every writer uses their experience in some way in their writing, whether they admit it or not. Because I am so forthcoming, I readily admit that I haven’t lived in a bubble for the past fifteen years. People draw inspiration from so many different things.
Take, for example, my former teacher. He was my music teacher for years. He wore those weird toe-shoes and always made us take our shoes off, so his basement classroom smelled like feet. He had irrational rules, and made us sing folk songs in eighth grade that my brother was singing in first grade. He also accused us of “nervous laughter” and left his discipline book open so everyone could see who was in trouble in his class. The best part? It was often hot in his classroom, so he often had sweat stains. And his last name was Gross. (If that doesn’t inspire a memoir, I don’t know what does.)
I do draw from the people around me, but my characters are my own. I don’t mean to, or desire to, villainize those around me, and making my characters my own is much more interesting. Besides, we all make mistakes, and even though I didn’t love my computer teacher, Ms. Champion, who used to work in a donut factory and told us (as eight-year-olds) about her divorce, there are several sides to every story. (Her last name was Champion; I swear I’m not making this up. She also left after that year because we found out she wasn’t good with computer skills. By the way, I had good teachers in my elementary school, too.)
In all of my writing, I use inspiration from real life. My gym teacher chastising me in rugby (“Are you gonna make the same mistakes over and over again?”); the prick of a needle against my thigh; the churning fear in my stomach as I realize that I can’t control my Segway, knowing I’m going to crash. The bubble of laughter with friends; hot chocolate after a cold day spent sledding; the dog-tired exhilaration that keeps you going at the end of a 60-mile ride, legs aching more with every hill you ascend. This all has made it into my writing. I don’t always use the exact moments, but I draw on the emotions they evoke.
Through being human, I understand others, and can create real emotions. I’ve experienced anger so intense while my sister was in pain, wishing I could take her place. I’ve been afraid, anxiety cramping in my stomach as I receive results that could determine my future. I’ve been so happy, wishing that life would never end.
Really, that’s part of what life’s all about, isn’t it? I’m only fifteen; I don’t have all of the answers, or even most of them. But from what I’ve seen, it’s about trying and making mistakes and living in the moment and caring about people and trying to make sense of reality. And cat photos, but I don’t care about those. As Tom Clancy said, “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.“