© 2011, Vicki Hinze
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Having written for over two decades, I thought I’d run into just about every kind of environmental impact on writing possible.
First it was writing around three kids and their schedules, then add a 120 pound dog who thought she was human and required tons of attention—and brought me lovely little gifts. Like the time I was at my desk writing on the computer and ignoring her. She whined, got ignored and so she went outside and came back in with a dead frog, which she plopped in my lap.
Then after my dad died, it was writing around three kids, the dog and my mother. My office was upstairs then, and all afternoon it was the battle of the bands below me. Mom liked country music, one son classical, and the other a blend of rock. If it wasn’t the battle of the bands, it was the battle of the televisions on competing stations.
Lesson learned? Like heat, noise rises. I wrote anyway. Tuned it out and wrote like a maniac.
Eventually, I noticed that I was writing to my emotions. So to work within that little quirk, I worked on four different projects that were in four different stages of development. That way, I could write to my mood. No snickering; odds are good you do it too. The question is to what extent. That was Lesson 2.
When my eldest son left for a stint in the Army, I was devastated. I wasn’t ready for him to go, much less to go overseas for a year. I wrote the saddest scene of my writing life and cried the whole time I was doing it. Oddly, that scene didn’t require one word to be changed from first draft to publication. (I think that’s because I was wholly invested and focused so intently on the pain. I just let it flow through me and out onto the page. Your child going into a war zone will do that to you. Yet no writer can do too much of that. It’d drive them nuts. So I pulled back, seeking balance.) Lesson 3 learned and intact.
When my Special Ops husband left for only he, Uncle Sam and God knows where, I wrote strong, strong suspense. Every fear I ever thought about having rose from my deepest recesses and spilled onto the page—and it took all four projects to distribute that much fear without overdosing the characters. Husband and son in the zone simultaneously. You bet there was sadness and fear. That heralded in Lesson 4. Characters will tell you when they need a breather, or a little comic relief, or a break in intensity. And you’d best listen to them or the characters go numb, anesthetized, and neither they nor the readers feel a thing.
When my daughter’s heart was broken, I knocked off so many guys in my books, if I hadn’t had four projects going, I’d have run out of characters. Men didn’t fare well during that heartache and healing. Truthfully, I’d still be a bit miffed, but she has a wonderful husband who adores her. The men in my books thank him often. Lesson 5 in that. You can back off and attempt to be objective, but all you are and what you think comes with you, the writer, to the project. It shows up in obvious ways—character reactions, responses to events and situations—and in subtle ones—the details the writer chooses to include, or not include.
As the years passed and the kids left to start their adult lives, I thought I’d run through all the lessons via life. But I haven’t. It’s quiet here now, and has been long enough to have forgotten the lessons learned.
At least it was until March when we began several huge remodeling projects. (They’re gorgeous and I love them). One is on one side of my office and the other one is on the other side of my office—a wall away. Those are done now and yet another remodeling project is underway. A new deck—just outside my office window—above and below. And the hammering and sawing, while making me happy because the deck is going to be fabulous, has me noting that a lot of bodies are piling up in this book.
For grins, I went back and looked, and sure enough, the count started rising when the hammering did. So I ditched what I’ve done since then and started again. Lesson 6 has been received. Even if consciously you’re not aware of an environmental impact on your writing, there likely is one.
It’s worth checking—and noting the lessons.