05 December 2012
Blessed to Be a Writer by Ashleen O'Gaea
There are many reasons I feel blessed to be a writer, but I don't mean to count them all here; I mean to mention one in particular. Being a writer requires me to ... think outside my own box.
Given that I spend my writing days in a box - namely my office - that may sound ironic, but it's not. Whether I'm writing novels or non-fiction, writing needs me to consider life from other perspectives than my own. I have to remember that not everyone sees the world the same way I do. Not everyone likes the rainbow Mohawk that kid is wearing. Some people think anyone wearing clothes a couple of sizes too big is disrespectful or dangerous. Others believe every problem is a matter of will, and that all pharmaceuticals are bad, bad, bad. When I write a character whose behavior is determined by such ways of looking at life, or when I have to remember to acknowledge readers who disagree that ... oh, that children will not starve themselves and it's okay if they don't eat all their veggies tonight ... I'm not just becoming a better writer. I'm becoming a better person.
Better able to understand other people's fears, angers, joys, confusions, hopes, dreams, self-images .... If I have a character whose childhood or previous chapter experience has closed her mind and made her insensitive to another character's needs, I have to dig around in my own experience and observation for ways to write about that character so that she comes across as real, not a cardboard foil for the plot. And if, when I do that, I come across an attitude of my own that is similarly insensitive, I can recognize it, use it, and then change it. I can still use it again for other characters, but I can let myself grow even if my character decides she doesn't give a rat's anatomy. That's different than when somebody tells me I'm narrow-minded: if I find something like that when I'm writing, there's no guilt involved, no present regret that I've hurt someone. That means I can develop my own character before my story becomes too much like ... my story.
In the same way that I think each of my novels is better than the last, as I practice the skills of this craft, I trust that I am always improving, too, as I practice the skills of living. If you haven't known me for a long time, you may not be able to see my personal character development -- but (good news!) there's plenty of time to read my books and see how I'm coming along as a writer. ;-)