This blog post was inspired by Vaughn Roycroft’s post What Building My House Taught Me About Writing.
In Vaughn’s post he said: “Writing a book is a big undertaking. Are there projects from your past that prepared you for your writing journey? Building our house was one of mine.”
For some odd, screwed-up reason, I thought of all the years I spent in Family Court, mostly at the behest of my screwed-up ex. You should have seen our file. Or rather, files. If I sneezed in the ex’s direction, he hauled me back into court.
And, yeah, I would say that my multi-year Family Court project prepared me for this writing life. Though none of my writing friends has pointed a shotgun in my face, smashed my 35mm camera with a hammer, or slashed my favorite dress with a razor blade. Not yet.
There were some wonderful people in Family Court. People that helped me. People that commiserated with me. People that held my hand while I cried on their shoulder. Writing is exactly like that when you have the awesome writing friends like I have.
Funny in a bad-sort-of-way people
I met a few funny people in Family Court. Mostly in the waiting areas. If you observe long enough (and if you are waiting to see a judge, you’ll wait a long time), you can discover who is glaring at what ex. And who should be approached with caution! Same goes for the writing life.
Some witnesses tell the most outrageous lies and literally made me laugh out loud. You really shouldn’t laugh in front of a judge. If you watch people and their campaigns on Facebook or Twitter and see what they post over and over, you know what I mean.
No matter what you do, there will be one person out to get you
You can be nice, give of yourself, and make sacrifices, and there is one special person who would prefer to eat you up and spit you out. Doesn’t matter what you do, there will be that “one person.”
People that fight for attention – nearly every post or tweet is about them, their book, their Fan Page! There are people who think self-promotion is the ticket to gather favor in the court (or in writing and publishing). But they are really just stroking their egos.
Mostly my ex, who lied to get what he wanted. But also a couple of his witnesses. Just like writing – a smattering of people are here for their own gain while the bulk of people are here for the good of the babies, our stories.
Struggle and giving it up for a friend
Every freaking little bit of Family Court was a struggle. You want the love seat, too? Then you’ll have to give up the coffee table. You want the birthday weekend? Then you’ll have to give up Thanksgiving weekend. If you see a friend in need, give it up and help out! You can get back to your own baby tomorrow.
The paperwork is endless
It’s writing letter after letter (blog after blog, query after query); social networking; saving critical blog posts for a rainy day; saving information on e-pubbing for the “I’m-ready-to-publish” day; developing meaningful relationships with people that are helpful and really believe you; waiting for good news or bad news to come in the mailbox.
Stories, Family Court has a million of them
Some stories go on and on when you would like to chop them to bits with a butcher knife. Or a machete. Yeah, a machete.
Thanks, Vaughn Roycroft, for the inspiration.
In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened. Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business before his return to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.
Connect with Vaughn on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to read Vaughn’s What Building My House Taught Me About Writing.
What arduous projects prepared you for the writing life? Did you expect the writing life to be so tough?
Photos, Photobucket – Reactionkc26, Ylva51, Byrdeth
14 responses to “The writing life is like Family Court, only Family Court was more fun”
I’m sorry you had to go through this and I’m glad there were people there to help you. I do love your observations (despite the heartache and pain you had to endure to have them). I worked for a short-period in a domestic violence shelter. Wow. Lessons I’ll never forget. I loved Vaughn’s post too.
Marvelous analogy/metaphor, Karen.
So very true, we each have a metaphor that fits our writing life–I am still looking for mine….or maybe it just flows and changes too often to be pinned down. 🙂
Interest post. I love the writing, what I find tough is the selling books part. But since that’s beyond my control, for the most part, I focus on the writing part and try to keep it fun 😉
Going through any drama-filled experiences like you did would certainly help in writing a book. I’m sorry you went through all of this, but if it’s any help, I’ve known three of my friends in the past couple of years who are having the same situations. When they share them, I often think of writing because you just can’t make this stuff up. Great article!
They say what doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger. It also gives me lots to write about. And my exes give me loads of fodder for my “bad guys!” I think at some point, something trips us up…blog block, overload of social media, marketing.
My heart goes out to you. My ex did us the favor of abandoning his pregnant wife and baby. Believe me, it was a favor. I think the violence I lived with, along with the drugs and lies, is key to my writing. That time in my life forced me to develop a voice.
And those exes make great fodder for revenge stories, right? 😉
Well-thought post and I love that it’s a little mind-bend from Vaughn’s(also amazing.)
Kudos, Karen, you are a warrior.
First and foremost, thanks so much for the link, the shout-out, and I’m so glad the post inspired such a moving post!
Sorry I’m a bit late to arrive, but I was on a train rolling across Ontario all day. Two things about my train ride that make me appreciate this all the more. First, if you open your eyes, you see all kinds of people, all around you–quirky, funny, happy, gracious, smiley, miserable, grouchy; all kinds. It’s great fodder, and I can only imagine how much writing material you pulled from just being around Family Court, let alone all that specifically happened to you. Second, I spent the day reading WU contributor Barbara O’Neil’s new book, The Garden of Happy Endings, and I remain blown away by her ability to make the most interesting characters out of seemingly mundane folks, living through ‘life as we know it.’
Having the talent to take the day to day oddities that abound around us and shape them into stories we can all relate to is a gift, but it is also a well honed craft. And you also have to have done some living to forge those life-moments into something applicable–to give you the necessary perspective. It sounds like you went through some tough stuff (and as you point out, it has undoubtedly made you stronger and more worldly). And I know you well enough to know you’re a disiplined student of craft. I’m quite sure the combination will produce great work!
So sorry you had to go through the bad doo-doo too. I’m getting my desserts, as I see my son all the time now, and I am the favorite of the grandsons – I’m the MoMo! I know, it was a mind-bend. But he asked what it made me think of, and Family Court was the first thing that popped into my freaky brain. I’ve “killed” my ex in my horror stories numerous times, in painful ways. 🙂
Ack, Vaughn, you and I were posting at the exact moment. My response above is for Tonia Marie. As for you – you are welcome for the shout-out. You were the inspiration! As for your comments…I love observing people, as I say, “in their natural habitats.” If we take the time to observe, we find many not so usual characters. I think we all have incredible discoveries in our memories and our past…but we must listen to our muses. I will check out Ms. O’Neil.
Ah yes, ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’….been there a few times, although none quite so dramatically as your story, Karen.
You know what I love about this post? The fact that I know you, and it’s pretty obvious you have used all the bad stuff and made good out of it. You haven’t allowed it, or them, to make you bitter, nasty or cynical.
You are generous to a fault, kind, considerate and such a source of encouragement, to me and a hoard of others. Many people would be jaded and hard after your life experiences, so massive props to you for making all those tough choices and being who you are today 🙂
I’ll admit – sometimes my sarcasm comes out in negative ways. But usually I prefer to find the humor (or fodder) in what’s happened to me. I’m not bitter of most things – if I hadn’t been through all that crap, I wouldn’t be where and who I am today. I remember, too, that karma is a bitch.
Wow, this is a powerful and moving analogy, Karen. I’d like to go find the bum that did those things to you and beat him up, but I can’t help but think he must be wallowing in his own awful muck. You, on the other hand, have chosen to fly, and that is something to be proud of. The ability to turn lemons into lemonade is a sign of strength and resilience.
I love lemonade, with a tad bit of sugar. What goes around, comes around. I am not the one to bring vengeance. I am sure that he is living with all he deserves. 🙂
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