Life can be so unfair at times …

I don’t typically write blog post during the week.  My schedule is just too chaotic to allow time for that, but today has been quite a little rollercoaster of emotions and I find that I need an outlet.  This might get a little gray, but hang with me, I promise I’m not just wallowing in hole.

I sat for eight hours by myself in my office today.  Yep, the whole place was empty aside from me.  Maybe I should add that there are just two of us that work there- small town remember?  Manning the place alone isn’t really all that uncommon since we both take vacations, sick days, etc.  We’re used to it and although it always creates a little bit more work, we manage.

Today, I was already in a funk by the time I got to work and yes, it was because my friend and co-worker wouldn’t be there, but it had nothing to do with anything extra that might come my way.  Over the weekend our little town was dealt some unsettling news.  A marine, who served in Iraq,  and who had recently returned home from the service, was killed in a car accident.  Although, I didn’t know him personally, it was easily seen from the mass of Facebook post in my feed, that he was loved by many.  He was my friend/co-worker’s nephew.  His grandmother taught both of my boys in preschool.  Both of these woman are dear to me.  So, yes, I sat there thinking of them today.  Their family has already suffered so much in the last few years.  The death of their father, then a husband who died suddenly, a son in-law who lost a battle to pancreatic cancer, their mother’s diagnosis of dementia, and now a young  boy who still had his whole life ahead of him.  How much can one family take?  I thought about his mother who, from my own experience of losing a child, I know will never be the same.  How will his sister, who isn’t much older than my eldest son, cope?  How will his father endure the death of his only son?

As if this wasn’t enough on my mind, I came across a few blog post that furthered my funky mood. Mary Rowen wrote a post about her struggle with Bulimia and how it changed her life.  And after reading her friend, Ami’s, story about depression, Kathy Palm was inspired to write about a time that was painfully difficult for her.  Each of these post, although sad and emotional, were also inspirational and left me in tears.

Life can be so unfair at times …

Yes I know this, but don’t we all?  We’ve all had some not so sunny times.  In 1998, I lost my first-born son and spent the next couple of years learning how to be me again while missing a piece of me. In May of 2011, my sister, after returning unharmed from a tour in Iraq, was given a death sentence when she was diagnosed with ALS.  Two months later I lost an aunt to colon cancer.  In October of that year, both of my grandparents died within two weeks of each other.  By November, my entire family was embattled in a nasty court battle for their estate.  An action that with missing trust paperwork and not one, but two disbarred attorney’s involved, turned so crazy it almost became comical.  Trust me, I couldn’t make this shit up if I had to!   19744406215b9eed6b5edec98a41ad00We all have dark times, but it’s what you do with those experiences that matter.  For me, I think in some aspects, dealing with so much in such a short span, made me stronger, but in some sense it also made me more vulnerable.  I’m okay with both.  And like most writers, I find writing to be therapeutic and healing, which made me question, as an author, how much of our darkness and life experiences do we throw into our writing?

The first question I usually get, when someone who knows my sister reads Drive Me Sane, is if Sera was based on her.  I’ve always answered no, because I never considered my sister inspiration when I was writing it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know my inspiration came from a Tyler Farr song.  But after thinking about this for quite some time now, I think I’m wrong.  Both female soldiers, who served overseas, my sister and Sera do share a lot of the same personality traits.  Feisty, outspoken and quick-tempered, I think I unknowingly cast my sister in my book 🙂 – to a degree. Because, although they have things in common, they are also very different (I’m pretty sure my sister would have run Tyler over with his own truck and there wouldn’t have been a happy ending there.)  And just in case you’re wondering, no my sister does not suffer from PTSD associated from her time in Iraq.

But with this realization, I began taking stock at some of my other writing to determine if I could personally associate with any of it and boy was I surprised.  I won’t make you suffer through the list of the dramatics of my life, because whether we want to admit it or not, we all have them, but yes, I do interject my own experiences into my writing.  A tad here or a bit there, I see myself, family and friends in pieces of my books.  Maybe that’s how I keep my sanity through all the craziness or maybe it’s just my way of sharing stories that I feel have merit.

So my question to my fellow authors is: How much of your own experiences do you draw from and use in your writing?

In closing, Mary, Kathy, and Ami- thanks for sharing your stories.  Although, it spun my day out of whack more than it already was, I think I needed to hear them today.  To the Brewer family, my thoughts are with you as Tyler is laid to rest and Apie- love ya!

And on a lighter note …

Congrats to my good friend, W.C. Cunningham, on the publication of his short story, The Right Words.  You can enjoy his humorous tale of a father talking to his kids about drugs, as well as, several other short stories for just 99¢! bill

And while I’m telling you about deals, E.L. Wicker’s debut novel, Fractured Immortal is FREE today.  That’s right, FREE!!!  Onlyfour hours left (US only) to get this amazing story!


Comments ( 18 )

  1. ReplyE.L. Wicker

    Life IS so unfair, I completely agree. Why should good, kind and honest people suffer such devastation - why should anyone? It's just not fair. I want to say sorry for all the terrible things you've experienced, but somehow - it just doesn't seem enough. When I read Drive Me Sane, I did think of your sister. You had previously described her as smart and feisty and there is definitely a piece of her in Sera. I don't know about you, but my most creative moments often come at a time when I'm feeling, well - not so great, I suppose. I think the darkest and saddest parts of me exist in some of my characters, like you said - it's an outlet. Lots of people can be so honest and expose the parts of them that others hide. I really admire that. Sorry to the young man that so tragically lost his life. My thoughts are in Kentucky and with the people mourning there. And, of course, I am always here for you sending good thoughts x

    • ReplyDenaRogers

      Life IS unfair, but it is also beautiful, fun and inspiring! I need to write more about those things :) And no need to be/feel sorry. We all deal with this stuff, some of us are just better at putting it out there than others. You know, everyone kept asking me about the similarities between my sister/Sera, almost to the point I became offended. This may sound terribly selfish and mean of me, but sometimes when someone gets sick, those close to them obsess over it and everything becomes about that one person. They are all you hear about, all anyone wants to talk about, think about, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love my sister and her illness has deeply affected me, but life continues and if I let her sickness rule me, then I'll sink into one of those dark places (she gets this, but not everyone does). I think because of this, I wanted something for myself. Something away from all the sadness and daily thoughts of how much more time do we have. Drive Me Sane gave me that and then low and behold, I was the one who unknowingly interjected her into it - go figure! I completely agree that some of our best work can come from emotional writing. After this post last night, I went to work and I think I finally made a little break through in those two chapters that have been given me fits. I know I said I wasn't going to touch them, but it just felt right, so I went with it. And, thank you for always thinking of me and just being the awesome person that you are :). My sister from another father or whatever it was that Abby/Phoebe said!!!

      • ReplyE.L. Wicker

        Haha! Sister from another Mister! I can see why the constant asking after your sister can get too much. It's difficult to deal with things in our own time without others bringing it to the forefront of our every waking thought. I think it's awesome that you unknowingly interjected a little of your sister into Sera and they are Sera's strongest parts too. I would hate to think what my writing would be like if everything was shiny, happy in my life - I don't think I'd be able to write a lot of the emotional elements. And thank YOU for always being on the other side of the laptop screen for me too :)

        • ReplyDenaRogers

          Yes, mister rhyme's a little better. LOL!!!!

  2. ReplyAaron Saylor

    Any decent writer draws on their own personal experiences. I know I do. The trick is to not use them too directly, to use your own experience as a starting point that still allows your characters and stories breathe on their own.

    • ReplyDenaRogers

      Thanks for commenting Aaron. I tend to wing this writing thing without putting much thought into it. I don't plot out or outline my storylines beforehand like some do. I'm not sure if that does or doesn't work to my advantage. I suppose I hadn't considered how much of myself I was interjecting and hopefully since I do it for the most part unknowingly, I can do as you said, draw from those experiences, but also give the stories their own life. Any news on the release of Jasper?

      • ReplyAaron Saylor

        Jasper is a few month's away, not too long. I'm really looking forward to getting it/him out there.

  3. ReplyHelen Pollard

    Dena, Sorry to hear you have had such a bad week - and to read that you lost a child. I can't even begin to imagine how that must be. I think no matter how we might try consciously to keep ourselves out of our writing, writing stems from the deepest part of ourselves and subconsciously some things are bound to creep in. For me, I know I will put in incidents that have happened to me but try to give them a different slant, and versions of people I know or have known, or amalgamations of several in one character. I very deliberately try to make sure the main character is not too much like me, though!

    • ReplyDenaRogers

      Thank you, Helen! It was just an emotional day with what was going on here locally (The downside of living in a small town, everything is big news!) and then reading the posts that hit home. I think Aaron above said it well ... to use our experiences, but to also allow our stories and characters room to breath and take life. It sounds like that's the approach you take, so you're likely on the right track. I see many author blogs that share writing advise and I always shy away from making those types of post. I still consider myself a newbie and in no position to dole out tips or tricks because I feel I still have so much to learn. But I'm always open to listening to interpretations and discussing how other's approach their craft. Thanks again for stopping by.

  4. Replyaetherhouse

    Sorry to hear about that Marine :( That's heartbreaking. "By November, my entire family was embattled in a nasty court battle for their estate" That actually happened in my family as well. My great-grandmother hated all six of her children, and left a huge mess for them upon her death. Now my grandmother refuses to go to any family functions with her siblings. It's sad. I draw from some personal experiences, but in a very vauge sort of way. When I was in a long distance relationship, I wanted to write about the longing I felt. But I didn't want to write about physical distance, as that's been overdone. So I thought, "I'll write about a normal couple whose world is rocked when one of them starts to slowly lose their eyesight." Blindness is distance. Blindness makes longing. And because my boyfriend was actually born blind (he got better! :P) that possibility was still pretty close to home. I never ended up writing that book, but it's in my idea log. Maybe one day - although I think some stories have to be written at a certain time in our lives, lest they not come out the same. I am no longer in a long distance relationship. I am no longer feeling that pain. I'm not sure I could channel it into a book anymore.

    • ReplyDenaRogers

      The analogy of blindness and a long distance relationship is very creative. And, I do agree that certain this have to be written as you process the experience, otherwise it get's lost.

  5. Replywccunningham

    I think we all tend to do this with our writing, both good and bad. It is natural for me personally, to pull from both dark moments and bright moments when developing a character. This could be from my own past or those around me. If it touched a place in my heart, it is a part of me, and therefore a part of a character I am writing. Great post Dena and thank you so much as always for the shout out my friend. :)

  6. Replyrachelcarrera

    Aww, you almost had me in tears! The Marine story is so touching, and the story of your sister is so sweet. I think you're an amazing friend and sister, and I;m so glad you made it through your own rough patch... I had a year similar to that once, and it was hell, too... And now that you're on the other side of the darkness, you've successfully channeled your pain and turned to your writing outlet. Way to go! I hope your week picks up! *HUGS* <3

  7. ReplyMary Rowen

    Dena, this post took me for an emotional roller coaster ride as well. First of all, I'm so sorry to hear that you lost a child. You are obviously very strong to be able to keep going and being positive after such a tragedy. My mom lost a baby when I was in 8th grade, so I have some sense of the grief that accompanies the loss of a child, but also know that parents are affected much more deeply than siblings. I'm sure some days are easier than other for you, and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you also for reading and mentioning my blog post about bulimia. That's very kind of you. And the other part of your post that resonates with me is the Marine killed in a car accident after serving overseas. Something similar happened in my mom's family back in the 1940s. Her oldest brother had only been home from WW2 for a few months when he was killed in a car crash. He was out with a bunch of friends partying, and all of them were killed when the car hit a tree. That incident destroyed my grandmother (whom I never met). Less than a year later, she had a serious stroke and never got out of bed again. And of course, for my mom, who was only 11 at the time, life was never the same either, as she became her grieving mother's nurse. Sorry for that downer stuff, but when you ask how much writers incorporate their own lives into their novels, I used a lot of that sad family history to shape the main character (Erin) in Leaving the Beach. I switched things up so that when Erin is in 8th grade, she loses her father in a car crash, and is left to help her mother. She also feels awkward in school, as I did after losing my baby brother--what do you say? how do you respond to all the people who keep telling you they're sorry?--and all of this contributes to Erin's bulimia. I firmly believe my eating disorders had some relation to the sadness and feelings of despair that were often part of those years. But to end on a better note, I'm happy to say that things are better now--fingers crossed--and I do believe that pain can make you a stronger person and a better writer. xoxo, mary

    • ReplyDenaRogers

      No need to apologize for the downer stuff, Mary. It was just one of those days that everything seemed to get to me. And thank you again for sharing your story!

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