Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Drawing the Edges of Your Writing

When I started out on my own, I roomed with a girl friend who was critical of my sad places . I would listen to sad music (the Blues and torch songs), cry and write poetry a lot (oh, the angst of young men and women)

I was entranced with the Beatnik mistique, but alas, that era was passing. My friend said I shouldn’t do that—give into the sadness—and then she got religious with me as to why I shouldn't.

“Don’t tell me what I should think and feel!”

The conflict I had with my friend set up a rebellion within me; a rebellion against her preconceived ideas of what was right and appropriate for me. 

Listening to sad music helped me feel the depths of emotion and sadness. It was an exercise, like drawing the black lines along the edges of my soul, that helped define me. 

So I dressed in black and moved to San Francisco to find the remnants of the Beats.

Why bring this up? Because when I write, I go to those scary places and challenge some aspect of the dark outlines, drawing them out further to increase my area of light and confidence, my sense of self and who I am. 

As writers, I think we need to push against those scary places within ourselves. Stretch and expand our writing to greater depths.

This month, on Saturday, August 18, Sherri Isaac will host me on her site, Psychological Sizzle, to talk about where this fierce resistance comes from and how I used it to write my first novel.  I hope you join me over at Sherri’s place for further discussion about those dark edges.

Have you defined where the inspiration comes from for your stories? 

Do you do anything unusual to bring out the writing juices for a new book?

As a reader, what unusual elements do you enjoy in books you read?


Barbara Forte Abate said...

I am a wildly sunshiny optimistic person by nature, and yet it is generally in the dark and scary places that I find my stories and characters dwelling. And maybe that's just the thing--by unloading all that heavy stuff into my novels I'm able to keep my mental closets somewhat tidy and clean.

I'll be looking for you over at Sherry's on the 18th, Cora!

Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

Each of us has our own writing process. I say, use whatever works for you. As you wrote, "Don't tell me what I should think and feel." I completely agree!
For the most part, I draw on my own life experiences and those of people I know. Believe me, not all of that is sunshine and lollipops but I do try to stay upbeat and optimistic. Even though I write mystery/suspense novels, I want to leave my readers with a feeling of "hope."

Cora said...

The bright shiny parts of life aren't that interesting--no problem to solve. Dark, scary places get our attention.

Thanks for the support.

Cora said...

True, if there were no hope, why would anyone want to read a downer? Thanks for stopping by, Patricia.

Sally Carpenter said...

I recently wrote a short story with a brutal murder. The writing came fine until I reached that part and I was revolted by the crime. I had to overcome my disgust for the deed and get into the murderer's head--he was cold, calculating, unfeeling. So glad when that section of the story was finished! But sometimes we must leave our comfort level for honesty in the story.

Cora said...

That reminds me of when one of my writer friends wrote a short story from inside the head of a serial killer and was sick for days.

Eileen Obser said...

Music, both sad and happy, always winds up in my writing -- while I'm in the act of doing so and/or partly as inspiration. Two hours ago I was playing with the lyrics to John Denver's Colorado Rocky Mountain High, since it was pivotal to a memoir piece I'm writing, set in November 1975, about when I was driving from eastern Long Island to JFK Airport for my first trip to Denver. It wasn't a happy time of my life, but I was visiting a childhood friend and THAT was not unhappy. I listened and watched John on YouTube sing that song twice, printed out the lyrics and song history for my files, and drew on the background of John's lyrics for mood and setting. Thanks, Cora, for your "musical" blog.

Cora said...

Thanks for your comments, Eileen.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Cora. If we don't go to those dark places, push against the boundaries, or dare to colour outside the lines, the our work is superficial rather than genuine. A reader knows the difference.

Looking forward to Saturday's post!