I am a journaler. I’ve kept a journal in some form or other off and on since I was about thirteen and had my first serious crush on a boy (the class hunk, naturally). A great deal of what was chronicled was simple day to day stuff: what happened at school, whether I had a good hair day, whether my latest crush talked to me, whether I made an A on a test, etc. I am less interested in that for posterity. But some events are proving to be invaluable to me as a writer, especially now as I work on Totem, my YA novel. My hero and heroine are falling right now, hard. So I’ve pulled out old diaries, love letters, and pictures and chartered a course down Memory Lane to remember what it was like when I fell in love for the first time at eighteen (my heroine is seventeen…it’s close enough). I feel that getting back into my own head at that age is very important because that heady first love isn’t anything like the long-standing solidarity and comfort of my marriage. And as I mentally regress to this point, I can feel again the butterflies in my stomach, the urgent sense that I must see him soon or I’ll just die…and I get to put it on paper. Technically it’s my week to move over and work on HOC, but I’m having fun falling in love again, so I may hang out with Harper and Ethan for a while longer.
My pal Jen recently talked in her blog about method writing. I suppose in a way my going back and reading all the things I wrote is a form of method writing. It’s the best way I know to get myself back into the character of a teenager, so to speak. I think it’s going to make my heroine’s and hero’s relationship more believable. It just goes to show that it’s worth taking the time to record our thoughts, feelings, and memories about stuff–the good and the bad. You never know what you’ll be able to use as fodder for a story. I took a bad breakup and turned it into the root of Houses of Cards (ironically, the end of the same relationship I’m reviewing the good parts of for Totem). My mantra going through difficult times has always been “It will make me a better writer.” And I do believe that. Not that I’m campaigning to be Job or anything, but going through personal difficulties makes me understand human nature better, and that is what ultimately will make me better–because I’ll be able to write characters who are more real, with whom more readers can connect on some level. The more they connect, the better they usually like the story (in theory–at least that was the end result of my master’s thesis). So here’s to journaling–the compost pile of experience.