What 2014 is bringing in here on our blog is an expansion of format. As neither Regina nor I are writing books set exclusively in 19th century England any more, we decided it was time to branch out a bit. So expect to see a lot more variety in topics here in the coming months—bits and pieces connected to my research on the US in the World War I era and Regina’s on...but no, I’ll let her tell you about that. And other things, too...like something funny that struck me just this morning.
In common with a great deal of the rest of the US, this winter has been darned cold on and off in New England where I live (of course yesterday was unusually warm, but we’re back in the deep-freeze today.) As a backyard bird-watcher, this bitter weather means I’m refilling all my feeders frequently to keep my aerial friends in munchies.
So yesterday, I decided to take advantage of the milder weather to go out and top everything off. While my daughter filled the finch feeders with nigella seed, I got a couple of suet cakes out of the garage and started to unwrap them to put into the suet feeders. As I did, a stiff sliver of plastic from the edge of the container drove itself a quarter-inch under the nail of my left index finger. At first, I felt only a quick lance of pain. I looked at my finger and saw the protruding sliver, and pulled it out...and yow, did that hurt—more than it had going in. It’s been throbbing on and off ever since, sometimes quite painfully...and that got me thinking about life experience and being a writer.
I’ve somehow managed to live to my present ripe old age without having shoved anything under a fingernail before (amazingly enough since I do a great deal of gardening). I understood in theory that it hurts...and now I know it. But before yesterday I didn’t know how it hurts—that it hurt worse coming out than going in, that it would throb painfully well afterward, that it would leave a reddish-purple line under my nail. If someday I decide I want to write a medieval torture scene (unlikely, but you never know) or a scene where a girl’s hand slips while she hems the dress she plans to wear when her best friend marries the man she herself loves, I will be able to do so much more realistically, much more precisely. I’ll be able to make a reader feel that moment, because I’ve now felt it myself. In fact, I might have never written about that experience, if I hadn’t gone to feed the birds yesterday. It’s a little thing, but it could lead to richer, bigger ones. It’s a new color in my palette.
So what’s the point of this rather rambling anecdote?
Two things. One, if you’re going to write, you need to experience things. I will here exhort any budding writers among you to not say “no” to new experiences. Go to new places, meet new people, do new things, even try new foods. And think about them while and after you’re experiencing them. Everything--everything--is grist for the writer’s mill.
The second point? Be careful. Shoving things under your fingernail hurts. :)
Happy New Year, my friends!