Thursday, May 24, 2012

Writing and Life

How do you cope with the periods when real-life events make it hard to write? I'm presently not thinking so much of mundane distractions that occasionally eat up so much time they threaten to squeeze out the writing. I'm thinking more of distressing or outright sad events such as a car accident, serious financial trouble, illness or death in the family, or a terrible disaster dominating the news. Things that tend to overshadow one's thoughts and undercut the will to work on fiction. In my case, this past weekend, our aging Saint Bernard had a health crisis, which, while it lasted, made the novella I've been working on seem like a futile effort. (The vet prescribed some pills that seem to have him back to normal for now, so the immediate worry has passed.) After 9-11, some authors commented that they felt unable to write frivolous fiction in the face of such a national catastrophe. Oddly, I've realized I feel just the opposite. I wish I DID have the gift for writing humorous, frothy stories. When swamped by a real-life worrying or sad event, I find that the dangers and griefs of my fictional characters look thin and unreal by contrast. (Not other people's characters—I can still READ a sad or suspenseful novel by a talented author with appreciation.) How can I put serious effort into creating these imaginary people with their phantasmal troubles when live people close to me are suffering real problems? Times like that sap my writing energy, so I have to push myself to put words on the screen—words that just seem to lie there inertly because they can't measure up to the seriousness of real life. I wouldn't feel the same way about a light or humorous story. Creating characters and situations meant to be amusing rather than emotionally stirring wouldn't feel like neglecting or even insulting live people going through actual crises. Writing frothy fiction would offer a welcome distraction about which I wouldn't have to feel inadequate or guilty. Margaret L. Carter Carter's Crypt

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