Use Your Past to Enrich your Writing

beach 1984


To quote REM, that’s me in the corner.

Top left to be exact.

The pale looking guy between the two young ladies on the right?

The novelist Dan Lalonde.

This was taken in “The Beaches” a sleepy little neighbourhood in East Toronto.

Judging from the mix of Mod, Proto-Goth and New Romantic fashion, I’d ballpark this photo as being from early 1984, when the lot of us were in our last year of High School.

At least three of us had already started writing, at least in the sense that we wanted to develop a body of work that would mark us as Authors.

This photo is somewhat significant because this was a night where we all went to an all night club (Well, we were club-hopping and were hoping to, at the end of the night, get admitted to a little hole in the wall club that ran until dawn.)

Whether or not we all ever wrote about this particular night, I can’t say for sure.

However, the experience of being there was something that at least informed our sense of who we could become and there are aspects of that night that have been incorporated into our writing.

A lot of the writing I do for my novels is generated based on OTHER people’s experiences, as well as some judicious research. I have never been a Sheriff, a Combat SAR operator, a Detective, a Woman, a First Nations Grandfather or a Meth Manufacturer, but I either know of people who are or have been these things or made their experiences available to read about on the internet.

I have lived in British Columbia, though and know the region I set my novels in, if only a little (I spent summers just up the road from the fictional town in which Matt Will lives).

However, a lot of the everyday details in the books, things that go into creating the characters’ everyday lives, I have experienced so I can put that into the writing, based on what I know and what I imagine the character would do in that situation.

The most important thing that you can do for your writing is to get out and experience things that you can use, not just in your writing but in your life as a Writer.

Read, walk, do the groceries, go get take-out from a place you  don’t normally order from, maybe in a part of town you hardly ever get to.

Go see a local band at a bar, if that’s something you never do.

Take it in, write it down.

Repeat as needed.

Here’s the Caveat though: many Writers argue both for spending a significantly large amount of time writing to generate results, as well as knowing that you have to set limits on that writing time.

You need your writing hour (or two) a day but you also need the other 23 hours to create the kind of life that’s worth writing about.

Let your life inform your art and your art inform how you look at your life.










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