Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Writers Society: Live Life

Hey guys! Hope you Americans are having a lovely holiday. Thanks for bringing your Thanksgiving leftovers—really takes the pressure off me having to provide decent treats. I do have a whole pumpkin pie left, though, so feel free to dig in. Just save a few slices for my husband otherwise he'll be surly.

We'll make this short, so you can get back to your shopping or whatever else you are doing today.

I want to talk about life. It's really easy as a writer to get caught up in other, imaginary lives. Even the internet "life" you have can become all consuming. It's kind of part of the job, right? I know when I'm writing, sometimes the people in my head feel more real than anything. And then when I look up from the words, it's hard for me to remember that those people don't actually...exist. You can only live in that imaginary world so long, and then you have to go back to your real life.

Wow, that sounded a little depressing! No, this is HWS! I have a point, and it's a happy one. I swear.

As wonderful as those imaginary worlds and people are, your life is just as magical. It might not feel like that, but I promise it is. Living life is the best way to find new stories, to learn new things that will filter their way into your writing. I've been on a serious contemporary fiction kick (which shouldn't be a surprise, since I just finished writing my first), and something very surprising has resulted from all my reading:

I appreciate my own, real life more.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some fantasy/sci-fi. But I've noticed a subtle difference in my mentality when I read that versus contemporary. When I read fantasy/sci-fi, I often find myself feeling like my little life is so...boring. I wish for more. I want to be bigger than I am. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I think that mentality helps me push for my goals, reach for the stars and all.

When I read contemporary fiction, I find myself marveling at how such "small things" can be meaningful, magical, and all around HUGE. I start to think about my own small life, and I realize that, little as it is, it's wonderful and fulfilling and special. Contemporary fiction reminds me to live my own life, to look for the magic in every day.

I honestly think you need both sides to be a good writer. You have to think big and small. You have to live your life and imagine others. If you aren't out there living, you're forgetting to do half your job.

You are not "wasting precious writing time" by having a life. You should never, ever feel guilty for doing things other than writing. You should never forget that living life will make you a better writer.

Take time away from that WIP. Go on a walk in the cold, just to feel that nip on your nose. Try a new restaurant, a new dish, just to see if you like it. Hug your kids, just because you can. Be adventurous. Observe those around you. Absorb life so you can imitate it on paper.


  1. Really interesting observation about your state of mind after reading different genres -- I thought it was just me! Thanks for a great post. Enjoy the pie :)

  2. I am so excited to see you are writing contemporary YA. I have always thought that the posts in which you wrote about your own teen-ager life were so compelling.

    Can't wait to see what you do.


  3. "Go on a walk in the cold, just to feel that nip on your nose."

    Score, I totally did that tonight! (No, really.)

    Great advice, as per usual. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Such a good one. :)

    Also: "I have always thought that the posts in which you wrote about your own teen-ager life were so compelling." (SEE??)

  5. I really like this post!

    Can I join the Happy Writer's Club? I brought half a lemon sour cream pie.

  6. Natalie, you can't hear it, but I'm applauding!

  7. Great post, Natalie - I have such a hard time walking away from the writing. Even this past weekend I felt horribly guilty for not getting anything done on the WIP.

    And I love the observation about how you feel depending on what you read. I never thought about it like that, but you're so right!!

  8. I couldn't agree more. It's the richness of our lives that puts richness into our writings.