Today’s post is in answer to a question sent me by Evie Alexis, a generous fellow writer on Absolute Write, a fantastic forum which, if you’re a writer, you ought visit. Each month, a few writers from AW form a Blog Chain, with each writer asking another one question to feature on their blog. Here’s Evie’s question and my answer:
What personal experiences, if any, do you bring to your writing?
My take on everything in life is you get what you put in. The same goes for writing. That doesn’t mean if you give something your all that you’ll achieve your goal. But you’ll have tried your damnedest, and that in itself means you’ve grown as a human being. The promise we deliver on inside ourselves is the most important promise of all.
Over a decade ago my father tried to teach me something. He told me, apropos of what, I can’t recall: “Success is about having glue in your ass.”
After years of meandering and wandering, I finally have it. And I’ll tell you exactly how I got it. I got it from my love of languages.
I used to think my pattern of falling wholesale in love with a culture and its language was an unsophisticated, romantic failing of mine. But however sophisticated it might or might not be, it has definitely taught me some really useful transferable skills.
Like writing a novel, learning a language requires:
2. DEDICATION: it’s a long-term commitment
4. PATIENCE with oneself
5. DRIVE; you’ve got to love it with the passion of a rising sun
6. FEARLESSNESS: a willingness to make mistakes in public, and to be constantly trying to say something you’ve never said before
8. DEVOTION OF TIME: this means making time, not just taking time. While others sleep, I work.
9. CONSTANCY of attention
10. SELF EXPRESSION
But I can’t stop short of saying one more thing on this matter.
Those of us with abundant opportunities often don’t recognize what we have. I was born lucky. I was born to parents who valued education, and made sure I got a good one. I was valued for who I was, and not limited by my home cultures because of my gender, race or religion. My parents valued reading, and weekly trips to the library were a norm, growing up. There were libraries where I grew up–that’s a perk too. My parents also taught me to respect others, and to be curious of the world we live in. I traveled with them, and later, alone, too. I learnt, thanks to them, three languages. Later, I’d learn more. I’ve never lived above a middle-class level, and never higher than middle middle-class. But while I’ve never known boundless money, I’ve never starved. I went hungry for a while in between jobs once. I feared being evicted while I desperately searched for reliable income. But I had, even then, family and friends whom I knew I could turn to if finally my pride needed an overhaul.
My brain works. My limbs still do; my organs too. My fingers can type or write. I have my sight and my hearing, and even more importantly, I have a love of life and of beauty. This thrills me. Somehow, even at my lowest moments, I am happy. I consider that some sort of chemical balance that I’m very lucky to have. Mind you, that was a conscious decision I made, too, around the age of 16. To love life.
My point: I’ve sought to connect with people, here and there and in between. Like you, I’ve seen into the eyes of people I care about, as well as those whom I could rather happily never see again. And I know we can’t take for granted these things that allow us to even think of writing. To even think it’s worth something. To be able to cogently express ourselves. To take the luxury of writing.
So to answer your question on what experiences I bring to my writing. Firstly, my luck (or the grace of God). Secondly, my parents. And thirdly, my love affair with language, which has taught me, finally, at a ripe age, what dedication, focus and drive are all about.
The rest, as they say, is commentary. 🙂
So now it’s my turn to shoot a question for the next person in line, Lady Cat. My question for you is:
When you look at the world, what do you see as the key motivating forces behind people’s actions, and when you look at your writing, do your characters’ motivations match these? If not, why do you feel there’s a difference–is there a question you’re resolving through your work, or is it the specifics of those particular motivations which calls you more?
Other AWers participating in this month’s blogroll include: ClaireCrossdale, razibahmed, aimeelaine, bsolah, dnic, JamieMT, LiliCray, ealexis, Lady Cat, Proach, Simran, lostwanderer5, Forbidden Snowflake, coryleslie, Angyl78, Bookdragonette, RavenCorinnCarluk