Do you use emotional memories to write a better story?

30 Mar

Hello! Yes, I’ve been a bit quiet on my blog for a few weeks. Partly due to yet another sinus infection (I’m good at those) and partly as my crappy old laptop is going through another phase of only opening a little and having the screen work at the same time… if that makes sense.

Basically, I can either type or I can read the screen, it won’t open up wide enough for me to be able to see what it is I’m actually typing… and that sort of puts a dampener on my writing as I tend to read it as I’m writing (not looking at the keys as I type as some do) and so I now feel like I’m on a typewriter and oh those are some painful memories!

See, I was raised in a technologically advanced family and have been using computers since I was five years old. So to then be forced to do a typewriting course in high school… Yes I failed the course as I, like many software programs, was unable to downgrade my abilities to suit the equipment. The rather blunt remarks – about the Stone Age tools I was being forced to use – to any teacher listening possibly didn’t help my grades either. 😉

So that’s my excuse as to why I’ve been a bit quiet. Call it a diva moment at not being able to write to my best capacity and therefore having a dummy spit. I’ll agree to a point. But seriously, I’ve been sick in bed the last week with a sinus infection, followed by head cold given to me by my hordes and that has caused more issues with my writing.

But I’m not spending this post going on and on about being a slack blogger. No, I use Facebook to whinge about my life and this blog to try and sound like I’m more with it and knowledgeable. So let’s skip over all the unwell and crappy laptop issues and get on with the real reason for the post – Do you use emotional memories to write a better story?

Why do I ask this? Thank you for asking! Basically, as I write this we are marking the fourth anniversary of my son having to undergo open heart surgery to fix a doubly committed ventral septal defect (aka a hole between the bottom two chambers of his heart just below the valve that may have caused a valve prolapse and possible death). He was nine months old when, as I artistically describe it they: took my baby away, put him to sleep, cracked his chest open like a chicken, stopped his heart for two hours and fixed his ticker.

He was diagnosed with the hole at eight weeks of age and it was so bad you could feel the way the blood was being pumped incorrectly every time you put your hand on his tiny chest. The good thing was he was a perfectly normal child in appearance, other than that. Yes he couldn’t go outside during the winter as he got chest infections at the drop of a hat… but other than that he seemed perfectly fine.

As you can probably imagine, my life at the time was pretty horrific. Not only had an organisation I’d worked at for several years forced me into redundancy (in a rather messy, nasty way I won’t go into) I then gave birth to a child who was a ticking time bomb. My cynical outlook on life grew darker, I gained a lot of weight from the need to medicate myself with copious amounts of chocolate and all in all it was a dark time in my life.

But! He had the operation and within four days of being treated like said chicken he came home with me… on my birthday. They did the operation in Brisbane, Queensland (one of two cities in Australia that do it) and we got a free trip there and got to spend a week at my in laws on the Sunshine coast to recuperate. So I guess there were some positives… I just don’t remember them as I was just in a stressed out haze at the time. And my son today is fine… as far as we can tell. He is due for his next cardiologist check-up later this year. He’s not been since he was two and they didn’t want to see him until he was five. As the check-ups for ‘bad’ cases are annual, I’ve always taken this as a good sign.

So back to the Writer side of it. Now, if I ever want to write something sad, painful and full of remorse and tears and you know, the stuff people love to read and feel themselves – I go back to those memories and that nasty part of my life. Heck, I’m a mum of three… I’m fairly certain there are still a few bad moments to come but I like to think I’ve gotten some training in to start with. So, fellow writers, do you do this too?

As now I’m wondering am I a bad parent to exploit those emotional times and fuel my words and stories with them? I suppose I must think of good, happy times for parts of my books too. I just don’t remember them as strongly as when I need to draw on this ‘inner darkness’ to be creative.

Are Writer’s sick individuals to feed off the bad bits of reality and use it to spin stories? Are we sadist that we want other people to have these emotions rub off on them too? Or am I just being too depressingly dark and I should focus more on the times my kids have cracked me up and how those moments have influenced funny parts of my stories?

Is it only the bad stuff that makes me guilty? I mean, it’s not as if I put down word for word what happened in my life and pretend it’s a fictional story. Dear God that would be boring if I did. It’d all be ironing, cleaning, cook books and whatever funnily embarrassing thing my hordes had done to me that day. Like my nine year old having a tanty the other day that she couldn’t enrol in a degree to do bioevolutionary science as you need to have passed year twelve biology to do it… and she’s only in year four. How I would wind that into one of my stories I don’t know… but my kids do sometimes make it stranger than fiction. 😉

I guess I have reached that massively waffling point where I should end the blog. Have I really even covered the point I was trying to make? Or just made everyone depressed by sharing some memories of this day four years ago?

To summarise – is it wrong to take emotional times from our lives and use them to try and write a better story? Not the actual experience, just the emotions that came with them? The good, the bad and the pass the tissue box moments in life? Does it make for better reading? Or is it more of a therapy to the Writer?

I’m curious to know what other people think on this as maybe I’m just making myself feel guilty for no reason and did actually use this blog as a platform to remember a dark time in my life.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO


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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Writing


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