Real Life Makes Fiction Challenging

Whether it’s a cranky roommate who thinks I can do anything about the forces of nature, freezing the water on the sidewalk, or it’s a mentally ill person at the library acting as if placing a bunch of random self-grooming supplies on a computer is the equivalent of a line of orange cones and a guard standing watch, dealing with people in real life can be the biggest source of writer’s block, for me at least.

It’s ironic when you consider how much of my writing is heavily inspired by real life. I’m a subscriber to the philosophy of writing what you know because unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t take it literally. Writing what you know doesn’t mean that you’re required to only know a handful of things. You can broaden your knowledge base to enrich your writing and make your stories more interesting or believable, depending on how much of the story you want your readers to get through before they put the book down.

But I can’t broaden my knowledge base to prepare for the way people behave. If the sidewalks are hard to walk and I’m forced to walk in the road, I can’t stop a woman from waving her iPhone at me in what’s supposed to be a gesture about how stupid I seem, when she’s the one on her iPhone while she’s driving. That’s a ticketable offense in some states and at least I have a legitimate reason for having to walk int he road. I shouldn’t have to worry about breaking my bones on the brick lined sidewalk. If I walk into a tchotchke shop and one of the many psychotic employees that the owner seems to hire right off the street decides to bust a nut, I can’t control or explain that. But I still have to contend with it.

It kills my creativity because while I could be spending that energy creating new worlds and exploring ideas in a fictional context, I’m instead using my creative energy to engage in a game of mental chess for which everyone brings their own rules.

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