Writers are always working, even when they’re not sitting at the keyboard. Every experience is a writing experience. Earlier this year, we enjoyed a long weekend at Matagorda Bay, and now it’s a setting for my newest novella, Ice Melts in Spring (due out in 2018). Last week, I had to put Mom in the hospital for emergency surgery—which went great, but her heart started acting up, so she has another procedure to endure—and I can promise you, this too will one way or another wind up in one of my books.
Writers say write what you know, which is great advice when applied to human emotion. Doesn’t do you much good as a Sci-Fi writer if the world you’re creating doesn’t exist or a historical fiction author who has no possible way of experiencing life in the preferred era.
But every story involves characters, and every character has emotions. Certain emotions are truly difficult to imagine unless you’ve experienced them. Once you do, you can “write what you know” beautifully and dramatically. Otherwise, you rely on cheater methods that don’t really elicit the emotion you’re looking for from your reader.
So sitting at the hospital with an elderly mom is research. It’s working. While I’m stuffing worry deep inside and wearing a happy face and being a mature woman while wishing I could sit in a corner with a thumb in my mouth or wave a wand and make everything all better, I’m working. Doesn’t particularly feel like it. It feels like I’m stuffing worry deep inside, wearing a happy face, and faking maturity. But if ever one of my characters has to fake maturity, I’ll know just how to show it.