The adage “write what you know” sets some writers up for failure, and launches others into a creative stratosphere. As for me, the expression makes me far too analytical and inwardly contemplative.
How entertaining is what I “know, such as the parent who faces abnormal stress in her child’s physical, social, and mental development? Because, that’s the way my week has been.
The world faces more dramatic and violent troubles than my little life does on a daily basis, as has been evidenced, yet again, by recent events around the globe. But when I thought about putting together a post for this week (Monday), I found myself stepping away from my computer and throwing myself into my child’s imagination.
Today, as I watched him suffer through some kind of physical or psychological/reactionary illness after his ultrasound and (unexpected) blood tests, I realized that I wasn’t avoiding work this past Monday when I didn’t post – I was giving him more of my time. The problem he had investigated today is one of the two “biggies” that threaten his life if all goes to H-E-double hockey sticks.
My son has a clot in his portal vein, and if it messes up the pressures of his circulatory system, it could kill him. There’s just no easy way to deliver that message. “Portal vein hypertension might abbreviate his life span” is a wispy fart of a description compared to the intense grief I’d feel if my living miracle died from a side effect of one of the very things that saved his life.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about death as a fart before.
My point being, this last week, instead of saying, “Go play Minecraft on your own,” or “Here, watch this movie,” or “Let’s put you in the pool by yourself,” and then getting my work done, I gave myself wholly to his adventures.
We built mines and crafted dragons. We filmed wild machines and drafted ridonculous stories with absolutely no plot or character arcs (but they had lots of exclamation marks and sound effects).
And now, when he’s completely wiped out by some unknown cause (the child never stops unless he’s sick), I have a moment to consider what I “know” and, perhaps, reflect about why I don’t write about it beyond my first creative non-fiction Growing a Rainbow, which is about my son’s premature birth, and how he kicked death in the pants and won.
That’s not to say that I don’t write about what I know about relationships between parent and child, or between people. I read somewhere that Stephen King wrote Pet Semetery after he became a parent, when he knew the angst a parent adopts at the same time their child is born (sometimes no more than a mere positive sign on a pee stick test). The novel resonates differently with me now as a parent than it did when I read it as a young person, especially as I’ve begged Death to F-off and leave my kid alone.
While I try to integrate my lived experiences in my novels, Clare in The Queen’s Viper is deaf with cochlear implants whereas my son uses hearing aids, I don’t write about zombies who work as nurses – I don’t write non-fiction (get it?). Seriously, though, at this point in my life, working in health care and writing fiction with a medical theme, or about life with extra sh*t thrown at it, doesn’t give me the escapism I need to make my writing interesting to me, and therefore interesting to readers.
My husband asked me why I don’t write novels that are medical dramas. After I stopped laughing, I told him that so long as I’m still working in the health care industry, I don’t want to. That’s not entertainment for me. Besides, I’m sure readers will hear my voice and not my narrator or POV character when, in *every* novel, I’d incorporate some kind of common medical faux pas seen on TV or movies and its correction.
This week, the focus of my creative efforts has been on my best creation: my son. As soon as he stops having headaches and up-chucking and making me worry about his hydrocephalus, I’ll get back to the imaginary worlds in my head.
Note to self: do not give grape juice on days where kiddo might be sick. Ugh.