Learning From Experience
by Jennifer Young
|Gone but not forgotten|
I was moved to think about the fictional Romy crooning over her desperately sick half-tabby half-wildcat, Willow, earlier on this week. I was at the vet’s crooning over my own desperately sick half-cat half-pudding Misty as fine brains struggled to find out what was wrong with her. And if course it crossed my mind that if I hadn’t put Romy and Willow through this then perhaps – just perhaps – we wouldn’t be here.
You see, I’m a timid writer - even a squeamish one. Generally speaking I steer clear of things that are unpleasant. I don’t put my characters through too much trauma because I really don’t want them to suffer. Other writers might create teenagers who turn to drink and drugs: I have them shut the door and suffer their misery in silence (but not for too long). They kill people violently, horribly and graphically: I ease them out of the door patiently and almost always offstage.
| Picture by Piotr Bodzek (from Wikimedia Commons|
This dislike for pain and gore is one reason why I don’t write crime or thrillers (or watch Casualty). But it’s more than that: it’s a weakness. To be a successful writer you have to face up to some of the terrible things that happen to you or that might happen to you – bereavement, illness, catastrophic career failure or whatever else it might be. I’d rather not think about bad things that might happen and I certainly prefer not to dwell on the troubles of the past, even the small ones. I’d rather be happy in the present.
Good writers – great writers – turn experience into a tool. When something terrible happens I’m sure they think well, at least I can use this in a plot. Or they might look around them in some ghastly hospital waiting room and make a mental note: nurses war blue overalls, not green. Must change that. Real writers are optimists, seeing the silver lining to every cloud. I should learn from that and I will: I’ll try to make myself nastier, make more people suffer, not just pet cats.
Romy’s Willow didn’t make it, by the way, and nor did my Misty. But at least I know now that at the vet hospital they shuffle you out through a side door rather than send you through the waiting room in floods of tears with an empty cat carrier. Must change that.