Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Writers Are Found Artists

by Stephanie Morrill

I sometimes feel sad for non-writers. How do they survive the tedium frequently involved in social gatherings? In my 31 years, I've been trapped in so many conversations where the pointlessness would set my teeth on edge if I wasn't able to think to myself, "I can use this. This girl's ego apparently has no end, but I can use this."

For all the frustrating things about being a writer (I would love to be able to watch a bad movie and not grow angrier every second as I think about how easily it would have been to improve it. Anyone feeling me?) the ability to take the good and bad from life and re-purpose it is a lovely bonus. Same as a found artist turns trash into art, we're able to do the same with our experiences.


One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. - Anne Lamott Bird by Bird
What's something from your real life that you've been able to re-purpose in a story?

22 comments:

  1. Watching a bad movie and getting angry because it could've been easily improved--yes!! I do this all the time when watching movies. I also tend to pick at continuity errors in TV shows. :P

    Sometimes, when I know someone who's done an activity or a sport my character does, I'm able to pick their brain for details and interesting stories. It's fun and helpful!

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  2. I'm not sure if it counts, because it wasn't a purposeful repurposing as much as me dealing with my issues through my character, but one of my characters is feeling a bit uncertain about her future- what does she want to do after the war, what if she makes the wrong choice, etc.- most of which was drawn from my worries about college.

    Also probably doesn't count, but at one point my default response for people apologizing for my discomfort (usually because of conversations containing bathroom humor and/or TMI, which they find hilarious and I find embarrassing) was "It's ok . . . I can call it story research." But then I stopped because I don't think anyone- myself included- believed me.

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  3. Being a writer is awesome! I use the term 'research' as an excuse for doing potentially dangerous things with my friends. My last 'research' attempt was to climb a waterfall, and it was absolutely terrifying. But at least now I can write an accurate account of my characters doing something like that! :)

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    1. Oh, goodness, climbing a waterfall sounds superb! I would love to do that! Which waterfall did you climb? I wish my parents let me do such things...

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    2. Well, it was on a class field trip at a place called the Sticky Waterfall (it has a long Thai name which I won't attempt to type.) My parents weren't too happy about it, but it was moderately safe because the lumpy stone that made up the waterfall was easy to grip, except for the slimy parts. As long as you didn't fall you would be fine... :)

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  4. I can absolutely relate to that "bad movie" situation. But since I do not watch movies all that much, it happens much more often to me with books. Drives me pistachios sometimes.

    My brothers have a whole set of strange playmates. My brothers tell me, "Anytime you want an idea for a weird boy in your story... ask us. We know 'em all." The incidents they describe are hilarious and offer me fabulous inspiration, especially for my naughty characters.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing this quote, Mrs. Morrill!

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    1. That's so funny, Hanan--the brothers' friends and the pistachios! ;)

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  5. A lot of times I use friends or random people I see on the street as inspiration for my character ideas. I'll see a certain characteristic in someone and I'll just have to use it. For example, my camp counselor one year had a random white streak in her hair because she straightened her hair once and burned it and that's what it grew back. I gave one of my characters a white streak in their hair as a defining trait that set them a part from other people. I also use a lot of events in history that I study in school to give me inspiration in writing. The world is definitely a writer's inspiration!

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  6. Oh, I love this post. This is one of my favorite aspects of being a writer: Having the opportunity to turn your bad experiences and dark seasons of life into works of art. Art that will, in return, connect with and encourage others who may be going through the same situation.

    Thanks for sharing this, Stephanie!

    Tessa
    www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

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  7. THIS. This. I so often get frustrated with things - especially other books, now - because I'm constantly thinking about "Oh, I can totally make this better." In fact, the current first draft I'm almost finished with came because I was frustrated with the stereotypical trends in a lot of YA dystopia (I think I was reading Matched at the time?) and wanted to try and take the elements I DID like and make it better.

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  8. First things first: I just reread Bird by Bird and it's a total must-read for every writer! Go get it if you don't own it already!

    And yes, real life get so much better when you think that every dull part of it can turn into writers material ;-) Some years ago, I had a dark period in my life and one of the thoughts that kept me going was 'I can use this'. Which I haven't done so far, but just the thought of it was enough. And sometimes it really feels nice to act as if you're legally eavesdropping ;-)

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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  9. I've only made it partway through Bird by Bird. Methinks I need to get my own copy. :)
    I started writing to handle stress and other unpleasant things, so I love being able to turn negative emotions into something constructive. That and eavesdropping on occasion is totally research, don't care what anyone says.

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  10. One thing that I've been able to incorporate into my writing is the sense of wonder from the places I've been and the people I've encountered. Sometimes it's much more subtle than others, but I can always think back to those times and remember that wonderstruck feeling. The fireflies on a summer night at an OYAN Summer Workshop in Kansas. A plane ride over the Carribbean Ocean at night as the stars glittered like diamonds over my head and the clouds crackled with purple lighting, and the the lights of the Florida Keys and Havana twinkled like golden stars in the ocean. Nicaragua, a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and culture, breathtaking beaches, wild hibiscus, and tiny little lizards. Third world markets. Multonomah Falls in Oregon. Harry Potter. Sunsets by the ocean. Swirling snowflakes.

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  11. One thing I love about being a writer is that you never get bored. On the train or bus or car or anywhere, you can always think about a plot or character. And peoplewatching, too :)

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  12. Writing has definitely improved my observation skills. It's almost become a natural thing for me to experience something while thinking about how I would describe it in a story. It's also useful at school because it really helps me with realistic dialogue.

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  13. Yes, this is definitely something wonderful about being a writer! Like Melissa, I make myself try new and potentially scary things as "research." LOL, I think my family thinks I'm nuts ;) I've shot guns for research, hiked to waterfalls, rode zip lines, and--this one actually really helped--played paintball. Seriously. It helped a lot to get the whole feel of a strategic battle scene. :)

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  14. I definitely understand about the disadvantages. I would like it if I wasn't able to see what everyone else described. Especially if what is being described is disgusting.

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  15. I've used a conversation with a friend! I changed a few bits and it was quite funny!

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  16. Oooh, this is true. Even if I'm miserable, I can always feel like I have SOMETHING to get out of the event. It can suck, but it works anyway. :)

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  17. My family. Things I've learned. My own struggles.

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  18. The watching a bad movie thing: so much yes!
    As far as things I've re-purposed, probably my move from my childhood home a few years ago. We moved 4 states away and it was really hard, but I wrote several stories out of it and I'm honestly quite proud of all of them :)


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com

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  19. I actually fully love what you said about seeming pointlessness actually being fruit for story. This is genius and I'm taking it on board. Cheers, Steph. :)

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