Not Such A Big Mystery, This Writing Thing of Mine

You seem like such a happy, giggly person, why are there sad undertones in your writing? That question came to me in an email earlier this week. I was impressed that this person did see the “sad undertones” in my writing, and thought it was a good question.

There is no real mystery surrounding any of this, no hidden secret I’m keeping from the rest of the world. I am a happy person. I can state that with all honesty, knowing that happiness isn’t something that comes to us from the outside. It comes from a choice we make on the inside.  This doesn’t mean I don’t know what sadness is or even understand it for that matter. I’ve lost people I’m close to, I’ve known disappointment. People have not lived up to my expectations. I don’t always get what I’d like. But I’m happy. Being happy doesn’t mean I don’t have crappy days (or weeks) or have tough, heart-wrenching decisions to make. The thing is, when I do, others rarely see it so they mistakenly believe it doesn’t exist for me, that I’m somehow immune.

None of us are immune.

No one leads a “perfect” life, even those people whose lives look perfect from the outside. If we all had perfect lives we wouldn’t be here, to learn, and share, accept, create, love.

So why does my writing have “sad undertones?”

A writer sees the world through a writer’s eye. And each writer has a different view of the world. I connect to my writing on an emotional level. It’s always been something I’ve understood very easily. It’s not difficult for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes. When I write a book, I understand the emotions my characters feel. A writer has to, even when we might not agree with their actions. A writer needs eyes in the back of their heads. We need to be observant of the world around us. We need to leave our judgments behind and let our characters be who they are, flaws and all. Because we are all flawed in our own way, whether we choose to believe it or not.

After reading an excerpt at the book launch, a friend came up to me and said, “I hate Aunt Millie already.” I agreed with her that Aunt Millie is a hard nut. But I like the character of Aunt Millie. I don’t hate her at all. She’s outspoken, and harsh, colourful in a way that makes her interesting to me. And she cares about Cammie in a way only Aunt Millie can. I promise you. Then again, I’m also privy to information about her that others aren’t. Because no matter what we see on the exterior of the people, characters in our lives, there is so much more to them than what they show the rest of the world. This is the case with Aunt Millie. She has her soft spot, but no one sees it. She can’t let that vulnerability show. She’s a bootlegger for goodness sake. She needs the world to see her as tough.

It helps to see both sides of the coin. One thing that sticks out in my childhood is something my father often said, “There are two sides to every story.” Some people argue that there are three, “your side,” “my side” and the “right side.” But life isn’t all that cut and dry. “Your side” and “my side” can both be right— right for us, that is. There really  is no third side. We all interpret life in our own way. We all see things through a different lens. We all react with different emotions. There’s a tendency in life to label things as right or wrong. But there isn’t always a right and wrong to life. Sometimes it just is, simple as that. A writer accepts their characters for who they are even when their actions aren’t the ones we might personally choose, yet we need to give them space to be who they are. Kind of like raising kids some might say.

Why are there sad undertones in my writing when the outside world sees a “happy giggly” person? The answer is quite simple. Life is sometimes sad, but rather than express that sadness to the world, I express it through the page. Writers don’t produce stories because we want to, but because we need to. We need to put the sadness and horror of this world in their rightful place to have them make sense when we all know that life doesn’t always make sense. It just is. But we all express our emotions in different ways; a writer does it with pen and paper. There’s no deep mystery, no big secret.

It just is.

We are all here to create and express life in our own unique way. We can thank God for that. Writing just happens to be mine. While it might sometimes reflect the happy side of life, it won’t always.

If you’re a writer what are your thoughts on this? Do you believe a writer brings their emotions to the page? If you’re not a writer, what form of art do you use to express yourself?

What’s Your Pet Interest?

What is your hobby? Every woman ought to have some pet interest in life, outside of the everyday routine which composes her regular occupations. What is yours?

—-The Mother’s Magazine, January 1915

Okay, so the quote from The Mother’s Magazine did make me giggle. Luckily it was written nearly one hundred years ago and not last week. I guess even back then they realized that expressing ourselves creatively was essential, and something we all need. Of course today, this same sentence would replace “woman” with “everyone,” but that’s an entirely different post.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book, Simple Abundance, says that a hobby is a great way to start freeing ourselves creatively because no one expects us to be perfect at a hobby. I suppose in many ways she’s right.

But even so, it seems to me that, most of us who do have hobbies often work quite diligently to perfect them. Card making, quilting, scrapbooking—- we’re always looking for a new design or a more complicated pattern to try. We push ourselves to higher heights. How many times can we make the same craft, in exactly the same way, before we long to create something with a little more pizzazz, a little more complexity, a little less humdrum?

When I first started writing I did look at it as a hobby. I began with nothing more than a desire to express myself with the written word. I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing or even what I wanted to write. I had no one to guide me or to answer my questions, but I didn’t let that stop me. Back then I wasn’t even aware that a writing community existed. I just wrote.

Some writers start out with the idea that their writing is better than it actually is. I’ve known people who sat down, wrote a first draft of a story and thought they were finished because they came to the end. The idea of smoothing out the bumps and adding a finishing coat never once occurred to them. They liked what they wrote– why would they want to change it? Might I mention, these same people are not published today, and some of them don’t understand why. They blame the publishers– an obvious choice. After all the publishers are the ones who have the power to publish—or not. I would consider these people hobbyists. If they aren’t willing to rewrite and revise until the words flow in perfect rhythm then how can they expect to ever be published?

But does this apply only to writing? Or does it mean that those of us who work to perfect any craft should no loner consider it a hobby?

Writing, like any craft, takes time to perfect. (That’s if the term perfection exists.) Yes, I’ve had many published works, even a YA novel, but I still feel that I have plenty to learn as a writer.  I hope that working at the sentences, polishing them, smoothing out the bumps is something that I never grow tired of, and I hope I never reach the point where I think I’ve learned all there is to learn about writing. I want to pick up each new word I find and weave it magically into my stories with a sense of wonder and delight for years to come. I not only want to write, I want to rewrite.

Over the years I’ve knitted, croqueted, and made various crafts. The only “hobby” that I stuck, the only one I never tired of, was writing. I suppose that alone should tell me something.

While some of my friends become excited over the newest gadget they have acquired for card making or scrapbooking I might become excited over a sentence or paragraph, one that has the proper rhythm, the exact number of words. I might discover some new insight that I hadn’t previously considered, a tiny bit of wisdom that sprouted from a seed somewhere inside me. There is always a fresh way to write a paragraph, or to catch a clever phrase on paper. (You know the ones— when you come back months later and think, ‘Did I really write that?’)

We all came to the planet to create something. Don’t try and convince me otherwise. Preparing the evening meal is a creation, (maybe not when I cook but still….) And lets not forget that even the creation of joy and laughter in the world is of great value. Make me laugh , make me smile. Brighten my day. Shouldn’t that be considered a worthwhile hobby?

May we hold our creations not only in hands, but in our hearts as well.

What is your “pet interest”? Do you have more than one? And do you believe that creativity is an essential part of our every day lives?

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