I don’t know about other writers, but to me it seems like being a writer is like speaking a foreign language. I was always told, you know you can speak a foreign language when you begin thinking or dreaming in that language. As a writer, I find that no matter how personal a situation is I’m always thinking about how it might make a good story or a good scene in a story. Of course, I alter things a little, ‘to protect the innocent,’ but the nucleus of the story or the scene comes from something personal, emotional, or something that I’ve seen or overheard. I find that absolutely fascinating because I do it all of the time. I’m always thinking about writing. I find that fascinating, not just about myself but about other authors, as well. When I’m speaking with an author and he/she asks me to repeat something that I’ve said that’s really funny or poignant, I know it’s because he/she wants to use it. Sometimes I’ll jokingly say, “Don’t use that because I might want to use it in a story.” So, I know other authors are always in tune to what’s going on and what’s being said around them, too. We’re always thinking about writing, thinking in ‘our language.’
Do you find that you do the same thing? I’m convinced a lot of writers base tidbits of information in their stories on someone in their life; someone they met; or someone who merely crossed their path. I was recently listening to NPR and I heard an author say she based a character on either her mother or grandmother, but because of her beliefs she wouldn’t allow the character in the story to die because the character was based on her loved one. She didn’t want to feel like she was influencing the life (or death) of her loved one. I get that.
Another thing that I do that I think is interesting is, sometimes I’m more motivated by sadness to write than I am by happiness. What is that about? My take on this is, perhaps because it’s so cathartic to write that this is my way of releasing that sadness. Sometimes I write about what has made me sad (or how I feel) or sometimes I’m just motivated to write, and the final product could be about something that doesn’t have anything to do with what has made me sad or how sad I feel. I don’t know that I’m equally as motivated to write when I’m happy. Perhaps that’s because I want to hold on to the happiness, and just keep it to myself. I don’t know. Of course, my writing isn’t always motivated by sadness. Sometimes I’m just excited about writing–getting back to a story to see what’s going to happen. This is more often the case. Sometimes a great scene pops into my head and I just want to see where it goes. Often, I’m curious to see what direction the characters are going to take the story. It’s like I’m reading the story for the first time (if you know what I mean).
My best thoughts come to me in the car, though, driving back and forth from Georgia to Florida. Some years ago I bought a digital recorder. Now I just use the recording app on my smartphone. When I begin to think in ‘our language’ I just talk away my time on the road.