|Jeff Vandermeer, in his Wonderbook, talks about a “scar” or a “ghost of a scar” or a “splinter”, which exists in a writer’s background that inspires or causes him to begin to write. In his case, it was his parents’ divorce when he was a child. What other kinds of “ghosts of scars” can inspire the urge to write? Do you know of any real-life examples of it?
There’s some truth to this particular myth. We often try to come up with reasons why we are the way we are. And as writers, we are a varied lot. Older, younger, male, female, abused, neglected, harmed, protected, loved—there are highs and lows in any life, and it’s at that edge that most stories happen. I personally know that two major components of my writing are my type 1 diabetes, and the fact that we moved a lot. This house that we live in now is the longest that I’ve lived anywhere. Ever.
Attendant with moving a lot are losing friends, moving schools, changing curriculums, changing weather patterns, changing accents. While I didn’t lose a language (we lived in the US for all my life except for a year and a half that I spent in England) there is enough linguistic variation between New York and Maryland (and then Tennessee) that there were points when I felt I was learning a new language.
The point is, moving is something that shapes my writing. Living with chronic illness shapes my writing. My family shapes my writing. The fact that my nephew died at five days shapes my writing. The fact that I worked at a toy store, the fact that I have taught, the fact that I have a big family, the fact that I’ve lived away from my family, the fact that I have engineers in my family tree . . . everything that I am, all my background causes me to write, not one single, simple scar.
There doesn’t have to be something specific that shapes a life to make it a writing life. I write because I’m me, with all the scars and splinters and aches on my mind that I’ve grown because I live. And they’re unique to me, those scars. That doesn’t make me a better writer (or a worse one) it just makes me.