A dear friend presented me with a copy of The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. This morning, I read a passage in which Cameron talks about using emotion as fuel for writing. I know just what she means.
Every day can’t be a great writing day. We’re only human and easily derailed. A song triggers the memory of a traumatic event and upsetting images flood our minds. Muscle tension from overworking makes our heads ache. Someone we love suffers hard times and our mind repeatedly veers towards worry like a shopping cart with a wonky wheel. The harder we try to put these thoughts from our minds, the deeper they entrench themselves. Why fight it when we can harness those emotion in a productive way?
On such days, I take up a pen and journal devoted to notes for my novel in-progress, and journal in the voice of a character. What scene can I write in which their worry, sadness, or uncertainty match my own? To paraphrase Cameron, it’s easier to get it down instead of thinking it up. The effective approach is to write about pain when you’re in the throws of it as opposed to conjuring it when feeling cheerful and carefree. Some of my best prose have come from such moments. Author Natalie Goldberg says, “the writer feels and through her words awakens those feelings in the reader. The writer takes the reader’s hand and guides him through the valley of sorrow and joy…”
Another source of forward propulsion is my morning reading practice which allows me to borrow on the emotions of others. I spend at least an hour each morning with nonfiction books relevant to my writing projects. An intriguing fact or true-life event can spark a new idea for the page. For instance, I recently learned that in the late 1800s through early 1900s, Nova Scotia’s rural and urban poor suffered malnutrition and a host of related illnesses. Smallpox, diphtheria, and whooping cough killed many children. Authorities crammed homeless people into penitentiaries, farmed out able-bodied children as cheap labour, and imported England’s ghetto children to fill extra demand. What will I do with that?
PS Click here to join Gwen’s Bimonthly Newsletter and receive a free excerpt of my debut novel The Last Hoffman.
You’ll be automatically entered in my next BOOK GIVEAWAY! Win an e-book edition of The Last Hoffman PLUS your choice of one my Read it/Loved it bestsellers.
The Last Hoffman is a poignant family drama featuring a multilayered cast of tightly woven characters in a fractured northern community. It will restore your belief in second chances.“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Historical Novel Society
“The environmental component is relevant to our times, the struggle to be heard over greed and ignorance and other people’s agendas is real. (…) This book would lend itself to be made into a movie.” ~ Canadian Author Association Reviewer