Believe it or not, your family and life can be a goldmine of creative writing ideas. Whether writing a memoir or beginning a novel, your family can be a source of inspiration to get you started. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone can write from experience. Here’s how this realization came to me…
Recently while in a waiting room, I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting nearby. She found out I was an author and said she’d always yearned to write a book. She revealed it had been a dream of hers her entire life.
“So do it,” I said.
She looked at me in horror. “But I could never write a book.”
“So start by writing a short story.”
“Oh no.” She shook her head. “I can’t write a story.”
“My life is too boring.” Then she shrugged. “But it’s always been my dream to write.”
Wow, I thought, those were some big barricades she’d thrown in her way. I wondered at the resistance that kept her from fulfilling a life-long dream. Although resistance to write seems quiet and gentle (after all, it’s just a barely audible internal whisper) in reality it is a big, mean, hard wall you run up against. Take my advice; don’t listen to that voice. Write anyway. Write from experience. And have faith. Resistance will crumble and fall like ancient ruins in the windstorm of your dreams. The most amazing things will follow.
I call it “Faith-Based Writing.” It’s faith that you do have a story worth telling and that you can write it. That you can face what is inside of you and come to terms with your life. When I am working with writers I am astounded at how many powerful stories are inside people. What wonderful lives they’ve led and insights they have into the world. It takes quite a bit of bravery to pull memories and stories up from within, to look at what you have to say with honesty and to put them to paper, thereby making yourself vulnerable to the world.
My Personal Write from Experience Story
My writing career began with one question from a teacher: “What legend is in your family that no one likes to talk about?” That was easy. I answered, “My great-grandmother, Eva Ann, was married and she ran off with a riverboat captain.” That line did more than begin to pull my first book out of me. It encouraged me to ask my grandmother (the daughter Eva Ann left behind to raise her other four children) about her own mother and discover the details and emotions of both their lives. The discussions we shared bonded my grandmother and me in ways I’d never imagined. I never met Eva Ann. I wish she’d kept a journal. I wish I’d begun earlier and taken more time to hear my grandmother’s stories, although I am grateful for the time we did have to share her memories. They began my writing career.
So what story do you have inside you? What family member has a story to tell? Do yourself a favor, even if it’s yourself you need to question. Ask. Listen. Then write. Whether you begin with your family or jump into pure fiction, you can write from experience.
Writing Prompts to help you write from experience
- Write about waiting for a baby to come
- Write about a birth
- Write about being a child at the turn of the century. Next, a child in 1920. 1930? 1940? 1950? 1960? You get the idea…
- Write about going to school for the first time
- Write about a teenage fan and the icon they adore (person, character, movie, etc.)
- Write about a dance in a gym
- Write about a first date
- Write about a first kiss
- Write about a party
- Write about a graduation (high school, college, beauty school, driving school, etc.)
- Write about a wedding
- Write about a marriage
- Write about a breakup
- Write about a divorce
- Write about a family reunion
- Write about waiting for death
- Write about fighting death
- Write about a death
- Write about the morning of a funeral
- Write about a family ritual
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Check out more at www.kathysteffen.com