Writing for what it’s worth

There is something cleansing about the process of writing a novel. Is it all the tears? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s the digging deep into sense memories. It’s a novel, so you aren’t writing your experiences, but you must call upon your experiences to describe your character’s journey. The feel of an icy cold Montana stream when you wiggle your toes in it. The smell of a rose. The crunch of snow under your boots. The nickering of a horse. All of these are sensory experiences that I’ve had that have been included in my stories.

Then there are the emotions. Being a mother. Falling in love. The anguish of arguing with someone you love. The devastating sense of loss when a loved one dies. The joy of success. The frustration of failure. We take these experiences, too and put them into our books.

Our characters may well do things we have not experienced. I’ve never been to 1867, nor ridden a horse from Kansas to Colorado. And yet I have a lot in common with the characters in my book that made that journey. My years on the planet have given me an understanding of many basic human emotions as well as physical pain and pleasure. With those experiences, I can send my imagination to places I’ve never been–to feel, smell and hear things that are outside my actual experience.

Readers do this all the time. We open the book and enter Jane Eyre’s world or the universe of Harry Potter. We relate to these characters not because we’ve had the same experiences, but because we feel their emotions. We share their humanity (even if they are elves or aliens).

But I digress, I was talking about how writing cleanses me. It gives me a chance to let my emotions run a bit wild. To explore what it means to be a human in love. A man or woman in pain. I emerge cleansed as though from a sauna. A sauna of the soul.

Someone pass the cold water.

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