Inspiration … or … experience

We as writers are inspired by many different means.  Even when we are not looking for it, there it is.

Watching television, reading an obscure paragraph or two on page 21 of the newspaper,  something we see in a shop, or a street, in a building, railway station, bus stop, or airport.

We can be inspired by people.  They can fuel the traits of our characters, can become part of a character, with admirable qualities and respect.

But …

We do not know them.  We do not have any real idea who they might be, and even though we can close, and think over the years we do, sometimes nothing can be further than the truth.

I give you a case in point.

Many years ago I had a friend, we shall call her Anne.  I had known her for a number of years and she was kind, bright, always happy and got along with everyone.

Then she contracted cancer.

She remained that bright happy person, and I  believe, as everyone did, that she was the bravest, most amazing person, who’d come to terms with her condition, and had made her peace.

I was so moved, I wrote a story that had a central character who had contracted cancer and was all but parallel the life of Anne.

I gave it to her to read just before she died.  What she said shocked me.

Her life was anything but that which I had seen, and with one sentence made me realize that as a writer, unless I had experienced what she was living through, I really had no idea what it was like.

It was, she said, a great story, but that was all it was.  I did not know the pain, the medication, the sacrifices, and the fears she had managed to hide from everyone including those closest to her..

It was happening to her, so how could I, or anyone else, know what it was like.

It was to me a matter of experience.

Although a writer does not necessarily need to have experience in any particular subject, having experience goes a long way towards making a story or a character more believable.

As fate would have it, I have a health issue, it’s not cancer, but it uses the same medication as cancer patients.

Whilst I know my condition does not give me a finite time to live, I realize now what she meant.

I have the same fears, suffering the after effects of the medicine, what it will be like as it progresses, how you appear in the eyes of others, and I know I feel only a small part of how it was for her.

That story is now being changed.

She had inspired me to write that story; I have now the experience to make it the story it should have been.

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