Never be afraid to write what you know. If you think your life is boring, you couldn’t be more wrong. People like to hear about lives they don’t live and, most definitely, lives they do live. As a Writer/Mummy, especially as a mother of small children, you can share the horror and humour of everyday life and make a fellow mum laugh in empathy and recognition.
If you don’t believe me, check out the amazing Parenting with Crappy Pictures blog. It never fails to make me smile, laugh, or even weep in shared sympathy. Note how many people follow the blog and read some of the comments. It can be lonely being a mum. There is nothing nicer than hearing you’re not the only one going slightly barmy on too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Talking of caffeine, I have found that cafes and coffee shops are an excellent place to overhear fascinating tales. You don’t have to be hobnobbing with the rich and famous to come up with cracking storylines. The art of penning entertaining dialogue can often be enhanced by surreptitious eavesdropping. (As you develop your writing you’ll learn what to leave out, such as the ums and ahs of natural conversation. I will write more on dialogue in a future post).
I devised an entire character after eavesdropping on a public school boy having lunch with his visiting grandparents. The character doesn’t vaguely resemble the boy – instead it’s the lead protagonist in my first romance – but the ideas flowed from the life the boy was describing and the reactions of his grandfather.
Next time you are surrounded by chaos at breakfast, store in your mind the sights, smells and emotions that bring the scene to life. Today’s grey-hair-inducing tussle with your two-year-old is tomorrow’s true-to-life hilarious scene.
How many times have you moaned to a friend about the horrific supermarket tantrum and realised that, with distance, it was a bit funny.
Even if you don’t want to write about life as a mummy, or your job, or your time at university, or your gap year, your first date, your childhood, your parents. Even if you want to create a fantasy world on planet Zarg with a tin robot as your lead man, you can still take inspiration from the world around you and the life you have lived.
It isn’t just your experiences that inform your writing, but your sensations. The emotions you feel, the physicality of your existence. Childbirth pain? I’m sure the same sensations could translate into how it might feel to be tortured by an alien device. Seeing your little one off to school for the first time? Those feelings of pride and desolation, the swelling heart, the racing pulse, the nausea, might just belong to an Army Sargent sending his troops into a no-win situation.
The most important, unique, thing you can bring to your writing is you.
So, next time your darling daughter is screaming at the top of her shrill register in the biscuit aisle at Sainsbury’s, don’t reach for the Valium, reach for a pen.