For many people, the life of a writer seems like a dream come true. They imagine a life spent in coffee shops, writing the great American novel. While that may be part of a writer’s life, it is certainly not the whole story. A writer’s life is full of ups and downs, just like any other life. But, what makes a writer’s life unique is the way that they use their experiences, both good and bad, to fuel their writing.
In this article, we will take a look at the life of a writer and how they turn their life into grist for the mill. We will see how a writer’s life is full of both good and bad experiences, and how they use those experiences to fuel their writing.
Grist for the Mill: Childhood Experiences
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that our earliest experiences shape the neural circuitry of our brains and influence our adult personalities. The study’s authors used a variety of methods to analyze how different types of experiences affected the brain development of rats and found that “early life experiences have a profound impact on the structure and function of brain circuits.”
This research suggests that our childhood experiences play a significant role in shaping who we are as adults. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that our experiences determine our fate; rather, they provide grist for the mill, so to speak. Our experiences help to shape and mold us, but we always have the power to choose how we respond to them.
If you’re struggling to make sense of your adult life, it may be helpful to reflect on your childhood experiences. What were the major events and relationships that shaped you? What lessons did you learn? How have those lessons influenced the choices you’ve made as an adult?
Taking the time to reflect on your past can be a helpful way to gain insight into your present. If you find yourself struggling, consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor who can help you explore your experiences and learn how to use them to your advantage.
Grist for the Mill: Ups and Downs
No matter what kind of person you are, you have probably faced some kind of adversity in your life. Whether it was something as small as a bad grade on a test or something as big as a divorce, everyone has faced some kind of challenge.
For writers, these challenges can be a source of inspiration. Many writers use their life’s ups and downs to fuel their creativity and produce great works of art. Some writers believe that it is necessary to experience pain and suffering in order to create great art. They feel that they need to have something to write about that is worth reading.
Others believe that they can use their imaginations to create fictional stories that are just as powerful as stories based on real-life events. No matter what your beliefs are, there is no doubt that adversity can be a great source of inspiration for writers. If you are facing some challenges in your life, don’t be discouraged. Use them to your advantage and let them inspire you to create something great.
For example, I’m drawing heavily from my personal experiences in my WIP, Rainforest Shaman. One character’s biggest challenge is being diagnosed with cancer and deciding which treatment route to go. This happened to me in 2021 when I was diagnosed with cancer. My character just happens to choose the path I took including traveling to the rainforest as part of his healing journey. As it turned out, my own healing journey to the Ecuadorian rainforest was one of the high points not only for the year but for my entire life.
Grist for the Mill: Family and friends
When you’re a writer, your life can feel like one big grist mill, with family and friends as the fodder. It can be tough to keep your private life private when your job is to make up stories. But it’s also tough to find material for your work when you’re not mining your own life. So what’s a writer to do?
For some, the answer is to keep their personal and professional lives separate. They might have a strict policy about not writing about people they know. Or they might only write about their own life experiences in a very detached way.
Others find that their family and friends are a goldmine of material. They might not use real names or identifying details, but they’re constantly drawing on their personal relationships for inspiration.
There’s no right or wrong way to approach this. It’s a personal decision that every writer has to make for themselves. But it’s worth considering how your relationships might be affected by your work. If you’re constantly mining your life for material, it can be tough to maintain boundaries. And if you’re not careful, you might end up hurting the people you love.
Grist for the Mill: Love and heartbreak
No one wants to hear about your writer’s block or how you can’t seem to get published. But everyone loves a good story about love and heartbreak. So what do you do? You use your own life as grist for the mill, of course!
Whether you’re writing a novel, a screenplay, or just a blog post, your personal experiences can be a goldmine of material. After all, who knows you better than yourself? And who can provide more emotionally resonant material than the people you’ve loved and lost?
Sure, it can be painful to dredge up old memories, but it’s also cathartic. And isn’t that what good writing is all about?
So next time you’re feeling creatively blocked, think about your past relationships. What went right? What went wrong? What lessons did you learn? Chances are, you’ll find plenty of material to work with—and you just might end up with a masterpiece.
Now Go Live an Interesting Life
In order to be a good writer, it’s helpful to live an interesting life. This is because interesting experiences make for good material to write about. Furthermore, a good writer must also be a good observer, and be able to take in and process the world around them in order to produce good writing.
Author’s Note: If you’d like to see firsthand how I incorporated key aspects of my own life into one of my stories, I recommend you start with RainForest Shaman, my current Work In Progress which is 50% off the retail price when you pre-order your copy. Go ahead. Treat yourself. You know you want to.