Ask any creative, and they’ll probably tell you that their inspiration came from something that happened to them. Be it something good or bad, writers and artists always pull from real experiences – and in my case, I did this in some of my published fiction novels.
The whole reason I started writing in the first place was because I was massively heartsick over this boy who apparently valued mixed signals and frustration over honest communication. I wrote my debut romantic comedy with a love interest heavily inspired by him – and for the first time, he was accessible to me.
This boy suddenly became real on the page, and I quickly found that writing a story about someone I was grappling with emotionally gradually afforded me the tools I needed to move forward. Granted, that first novel is something I find myself cringing at today, since I’ve come a long way stylistically since drafting it over four years ago. But I’m still proud of the way I was able to be honest with myself and get him out of my system for good – even if the real guy still to this day has no idea about it.
I could be angry with him for knowing how I felt and playing with my emotions anyway – but that’s probably a more cynical reading than the reality. More likely than not, he was just an overgrown teenager barely in touch with himself and unable to make up his mind. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, even if it was stupid and irritating enough at the time to appear that way.
After that first foray into fiction writing, I found myself delving even deeper into the recesses of my mind for a concept born out of pain much worse than being unnoticed by the object of my crush. More simply put, my latest concept came from my need to address the bullying I sustained throughout my elementary and middle school years.
One might think that years of high school and college may have afforded enough distance between my old bullies and I, but memories don’t die. Unfortunately, those nasty little buggers tend to stick around. So with my newest time-travel concept, I did the only rational thing and wrote characters based on the bullies I encountered (of course).
The biggest takeaway I got from the various introspection and growth from the unfortunate experiences I had as a kid was this: It wasn’t so much the bullies that were the main problem. Not completely anyway – what happened to me was largely a side effect of being in a tiny private school with overbearing teachers who never allowed me to defend myself (even rolling my eyes was enough to be corrected).
This produced a very negative mindset in me that made me fear authority figures and feel very small, all while having anger pent up for years. So in response to this, as a college-educated woman with much more personal agency and maturity now, I fought back with my pen (uh, keyboard, I suppose).
In my latest book, I sent myself back in time to address these things I’ve learned – unfiltered. There’s no fear of those authority figures anymore, because my academic future has come and gone without any blemishes on my record. I was fortunate to attend an elite high school, which then prepared me for success at a small but well-known liberal arts college.
I did it – I was there, I made it. Going back in time (at least fictionally) was my desperate need to tell my teachers what they never took the time to properly understand. My bullies also finally got the earful that they deserved (plus quite a bit more). I’m embarrassed to say that my most favorite moment of this book was probably the epic fight scene I wrote toward the end – it was so raw and uninhibited.
But the battle within myself was far from over – what I quickly learned about tearing open emotional scar tissue was that it bleeds, a lot. It still feels like a painful detox, causing me to be suddenly hyper-aware of people and situations I haven’t thought of in years.
This is where I’m at now, and although I’m well on my way to healing, I’m definitely not there yet. Making peace with that realization has been the biggest challenge of this literary endeavor, but I know that it will also likely be the most rewarding.
That’s why I’m writing a sequel to that book, and it’s going to give me a new platform to heal even further. But I’m also going to allow myself to purge the pain out of myself any way I can – and writing is undoubtedly going to be a massive part of that.