Life Imitating Art

“Writing is easy. Just sit down and open a vein.”

~Red Barber

Have you ever heard this quote? It’s one of my favorites because it rings so true.

When I sit down in front of my computer or I’m jotting notes by hand, one of the first things I do is ‘get into the skin’ of my character and it is sort of like an imaginary blood transfusion between me and this fictional-but-oh-so-real person. I assure you, it’s not as gruesome as it sounds, but it’s an important step for me as a writer to really think about who this person is, how he or she will react in this situation, what will he or she think or say, etc. And for me, the way I most often unearth genuine emotions for my characters is on the mountains and in the valleys of my own life.

I haven’t gone as far as some authors, such as Stephen King who literally wrote himself (yes, as in himself) into his own book series. There’s a meta head trip for you. But, hey, when you’re Stephen King you can do what you want with your writing.

But here’s what I pray for with each story I write:

~1. May the hearts of people in this story beat with so much vigor, the person reading it feels the warmth.

~2. May I put enough of my own life into these characters that their tears are my tears, their laughter is my laughter.

~3. May God breathe his own breath into this story so his love shines through the lives of these characters.

This is what my heart aches for, and I know to get there, I need to do the all-important step two (not that they’re in order).

I put glimpses of my life in everything I write. Sometimes it’s fun and gives me a kick to put some quirky thing about myself in one of my books, like eating watermelon with salt just like my grandma or always reading the last line of a book before I read the rest. (Gasp, I know!)

Sometimes it’s beautiful, like the sweetness of holding my babies for the first time or putting in some of the special places I’ve visited and want to share with others.

The hardest, but for me, the most important has been the times when I’ve shared the deepest and darkest parts of my experiences. It’s not always comfortable as a writer to share these painful parts of myself, despite the fictional covering. I sometimes feel exposed. But then I remember the books that have changed me, and the authors who weren’t afraid to get real and shared fearlessly of themselves.

And I think, “What if by me sharing the ups and downs, the heartaches of having a stroke and all that comes with it, someone else feels normal for going through something similar?”

Or, “What if I show my struggles with depression and anxiety and it helps others in the same boat not feel so alone?”

And, “What if I show that marriage isn’t always perfect, even if you’re a Christian, and someone feels less shame because of it?”

So, I use not just the pretty stuff, the lovely ‘acceptable’ stuff of my life—and trust me, there is lots of fodder there! But I also dig deeper, because it is from the mire, from the earthy depths of myself that my Father, the Sculptor, begins to mold the story he wants to tell. How he makes beauty from every pain, heartache, frustration, illness, even loss.

Isn’t that just like our lives, too? He’s so good like that. And he’s teaching me to write and to live the way he fathers. Always searching for the evidence of grace and goodness amongst the hardships of life, like flower buds poking through the dead, hard ground in spring.

I guess, ultimately through sharing parts of myself, that’s what I want to bring to people who read my stories— a sense of hope and love, no matter what they might be facing.

It’s my art, imitating my life. My heart, open like the book I’m writing. My veins, running through the characters I create.

And even though it might feel a little vulnerable at times, the sacrifice is so worth it.

Have you ever heard of a favorite author using something from his or her life in their fiction? Who? What was a favorite book that had real-life experiences in it?

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A born and bred Midwesterner, Mollie Rushmeyer makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband and two spunky, beautiful daughters. From a young age, she loved putting words to page and dreamed of becoming an author. As an inspirational contemporary romance and women’s fiction writer, she loves to bring stories of hope to messy, prodigal gals just like her. 

She’s an active member of ACFW and is the Vice President of her local chapter. In her “spare” time she lives out her Lois Lane fantasies as a local print journalist, writes encouraging online content for Crosswalk and iBelieve, is an outdoors enthusiast, a passionate champion for the freedom of human trafficking victims, loves to sing and read, and enjoys full-time employment as a monkey-catcher… ahem, mommy.

You can connect with her more at:

https://molliejoyrushmeyer.com/
https://www.facebook.com/authormollierushmeyer/
https://twitter.com/mollierushmeyer
https://www.instagram.com/molliejoyrushmeyer/

By |2018-10-02T17:02:50+00:00October 2nd, 2018|Mollie Rushmeyer, Uncategorized|6 Comments

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6 Comments

  1. Karin Beery October 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Is it possible to not include part of your life in your stories?? I always seem to have a sports fan in my books. And a music lover. And a few fictionalized-to-improve-their-impact conversations might slip in there 🙂 I hope authors are able to tap into their lives to secretly share bits of themselves … unless they’re writing murder mysteries. Then I hope it’s all made up 😉

    • Mollie Rushmeyer October 3, 2018 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      I know, it’s pretty hard not to have parts of ourselves in our stories! Agreed, I’m all for truth in fiction… Except for horror or crime books!

  2. Austin Ryan October 3, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    I ‘ve never read it before (surprisingly), but I absolutely love that quote by Ray Bradbury! Thank you so much for sharing that, Mollie!

    I always try to keep myself out of my stories, but I don’t ever succeed. I seep in all the time 🙂

    And when I say myself, I’m talking about physical features and personality, I don’t ever mean my experiences. I hunt down experiences simply TO write them into my stories (and I have done so for at least the past 13 years or so). And then it’s the experiences that have hunted ME down, the ones I wished I’d never have to go through.

    I know that when a book touches me deeply, it is probably because the author put in a real-life story (it could be just a sentence, but if it’s based in truth it will burn you with authenticity), but I can’t really think of one where I know the author confirmed it.

    • Mollie Rushmeyer October 3, 2018 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      I have to ask, from one writer to another, is there a reason you try to keep yourself out of your writing? I do understand that you probably don’t want a cookie cutter version of yourself in your stories though! Yes, I definitely meant my experiences more than my personality and physical features!

      • Austin Ryan October 13, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

        From one writer to another, I think it’s sometimes made me feel uncomfortable when people assume that my story is about me because it is in some ways (of course), but totally not in other ways. I think for people who aren’t writers it’s easy to assume that if you’ve written something it simply MUST be autobiographical, which makes sense if you don’t wake up with storylines in your head 🙂 So I always try to keep myself to a minimum, but I’m not even sure if that’s how it works 🙂

  3. Loraine Nunley October 4, 2018 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Yeah, I can’t keep myself out of my writing. I’ve tried. My best efforts come from that because I write what I know and I know me. 🙂
    I’ve had times when another author has written about things that I’ve experienced. That’s usually pretty neat when it happens because that tells me others are going through similar things.

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