There is a fine line a writer has to walk between living and writing. Too much living means not enough writing, and too much writing means not enough living. As evidenced by my lack of recent blog posts and by my lack of mention of a completed first draft of my second novel, it is obvious which activity is consuming my focus lately.
Recently, while in the throes of excessive living, I was in a beautiful location, enjoying a sumptuous meal beginning with fried olives, stuffed with gorgonzola accompanied by a spicy honey sauce. My teeth cut through the crisp golden batter. My mouth watered in response to the hot, salty olive. I sucked in a breath and realized I should have given the appetizer a moment to cool; my tongue was stinging slightly. I carried on chewing, a little more gingerly, breathing in cooling air. The cheese creamed across my tongue. The sauce kicked in. I didn’t notice the sweetness of honey on the first bite but the spiciness grew with each passing second. I attempted to dispel the effects with a sip of cold, crisp, and tart Sauvignon Blanc. The wine opened my taste buds further. My mouth grew warmer for a moment. A couple more small sips of wine and the spiciness eased. I lifted my fork and began the whole process over again. Mm…
If I had not visited this restaurant and had this experience I could not have told you about it quite so thoroughly. I wouldn’t have known to include certain details about the experience. The napkin I placed across my lap was the thickest of linens. Snowflakes the size of quarters drifted down in front of a mountain backdrop. A candle flickered in the reflection. My spine stayed straight, my elbows were kept off the table but it was a romantic and exquisite evening. Maybe I could have come close to describing it this well without visiting, but maybe not.
When I pay attention to my senses, emotions and experiences while I am living, I always find rich details to incorporate into my writing to give it depth and to help recreate an experience my reader can identify with which will hopefully evoke a response. It is this response that binds my reader to my words.
When I am experiencing powerful emotions I often try and capture them in a journal. Sometimes these captured emotions can be used in my writing. The problem is that to have these powerful emotions you have to be living. When you are living you are not writing. To further compound the issue… I have a horrible memory. Things fade so quickly especially if you are living life at tremendous speeds, and I have been living at the speed of sound.
To combat this I try my best to always carry a pen and journal with me. I often see and feel these moments and I know them for what they are, snapshots that could make my writing better. It is painful. The writer in me gets the inspired thought or the creative burst and longs to capture it. I also know I can’t live behind the pen. If I spend all my time writing about my vacation I am not actually having one.
Finding the balance between living and writing is difficult. And as you can see by my lack of blog posts I’m doing a hell of a lot of living. Hopefully that will translate into some great writing at some point.
As someone I love recently said to me, “Quality problems Shannon, that’s what those are, quality problems.” That was a helpful perspective.
Life does not come with a remote control that allows us to pause and record.
What do you do to capture these living moments for your writing before they slip by?