How much experience is too much?

When I was a teenager, my belief was always ‘with experience will come the subject for writing‘. Ten years later, I would like to revise this statement. Not to disprove it entirely, but to perhaps extrapolate on a different tangent.

A prevalent mantra of creative writing is write about what you know. This was also drilled into me by various English teachers who, I suspect, thought their students incapable of stretching their imagination. Sad. But very sound advice. Of course, my love of crime writing that inevitably involved the investigators as well, did not stop me from exploring characters beyond my own scope of knowledge. These characters would also fall flat because of my lack of knowledge in criminal law and investigative procedures aside from those gleaned from media. Eventually it became apparent that I should just stick to what I know; my imagination and what it could conjure up in the way of a sociopath serial killer.

Back then, if I could write for more than fifteen minutes at a time, I would have already produced pages and pages of story. Inspiration struck me to the point where it flowed easily and naturally onto paper. There was never a care about storyline. They were all short and (why my handwriting is atrocious now!) finished within a couple of hours, max, of words that came directly from my brain and onto paper, with no interference. I would then read through it and type it out; my editing process. I never really got into the habit of planning my stories, I never had to. I guess I didn’t care about audience either because my work was just for me. It was a release for my mind and emotions to mingle on paper simply because I couldn’t articulate my thoughts and emotions. My upbringing did not encourage freedom of verbal expression for fear that it would be used against you. Writing was my therapy and nothing more. I thought about the future and how much better my writing would be because I hoped to learn from experience. And then become a real writer.

Ten years on, yes, I’ve experienced so much that I wanted to draw knowledge from and expand upon themes in my writing as a teenager. I learnt at an early age that it is always the bad experiences that shape you more as a person, force you to grow. Adulthood, the early twenties for myself, was and still is an important catalyst. It threw relationships, money troubles and soul sapping jobs at me. These things have made me who I am today, but as I am growing as a person, my writing has diminished to barely a sentence strung together before I would give up.

So my question is, can life drain your soul of its creativity and leave you clutching at vague ideas that you casually give a thought to, very briefly, but then forget altogether? Can you suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune and still scribble out an entire story in one sitting? Just like with any problem, the best start in the right direction is to acknowledge there is one and face it. I know inspiration has never come to me from long deliberation. It’s sudden and violent and must be noted. Or else. Experience has taught me that about my own personal writing habits. It’s about time I accepted this and move on, huh? Inactivity of my imagination leads to numbing routines of work, home, sleep and repeat which circles around ultimately to failed imagination. Such a bleak and crushing thought.

A mantra of my own that I have always believed in, even at the age of fifteen, is: Losing all imagination would be the death of me.

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2 comments

  1. This is why I need a job that’s not soul-crushing. I had a temp job that was scanning pages for eight hours, and when I got home, all I could do was curl up and watch Doctor Who episodes. I didn’t have the mental energy to create. I need something that fuels my imagination, does not sap it. One needs to live, too–but I want to live and enjoy my life–I don’t want to lose my ability to write. That would be the death of me. I would be a zombie walking around, not alive

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    1. Clearly you will never lose your ability to write and write well. I find seeking inspiration in music, poetry and even certain philosophers give me the energy to put pen to paper. Thanks for the comment ☺

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