I’m sure many of you are already in full on pain mode seeing as it’s the first Monday back to work after the holidays. If you’re like me, you’re in pain because you realized Sunday the 3rd was the last day to gorge yourself before all those New Year’s resolutions started, so you stuffed your face and woke up this morning still feeling like your stomach is about to burst.
But this post isn’t about that kind of pain. It’s about looking back at the year behind us and getting a tough yet realistic view of the things that went wrong in 2015. (Don’t worry; there is no punishment involved in this reflection, like bashing your head against a desk once for every word you missed in your word count goals of the year)
Grab some Kleenex and give yourself some alone time, because taking stock of the pain of 2015 could be tough. For me professionally, 2015 was the greatest year yet, but in my personal life, there were a lot of things that could have gone better. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve decided to use the pain of 2015 as inspiration for my writing. Here’s how I do it:
Write down the ways others hurt you this year. Go over each experience to remember how it made you feel those raw emotions like anger, despair, or heartbrokenness.
Now here comes the hard(er) part. Write down all the ways you hurt others this year. Be completely honest with yourself. I’m positive that most of us never intend to hurt the people we love in our lives, but we all know that at some point or other, we do hurt them. Think about those moments and write down how you brought those feelings of anger, despair, or heartbrokenness into someone else’s life. Look at the moments when you were the villain in the past year.
Okay. Now that we are all thoroughly depressed with our list of 2015 Pains, let’s turn those frowns upside down! In going over the manuscripts I’ve written thus far, I’ve realized that all my picture book stories are about pain in some form or another. Whether they’re about embarrassment or bullying or regret or loneliness, pain is the common feeling that each of my characters must overcome. So use that List o’ Pain as inspiration. Take those core feelings you wrote down and be true to the hurt your characters would feel or cause in their specific situations. Then show how we can move on from those hurts. For me, it’s usually through laughter. Show how that character trait your MC gets bullied for can actually be useful and hysterical; show how that monster’s destructive qualities can be embraced by its neighbors for the greater good in a fun and lighthearted way; show how even when you are more embarrassed than you’ve ever been in your entire life, if you laugh at yourself, the situation doesn’t seem quite so bad at all.
Pain is a fact of life, and what better way to grow from it than through writing. So embrace the pain! But please, do be sure to embrace it in a metaphorical/inspiring sense. Let’s not get too literal here. I don’t want you all to end up like this:
Jason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark (and painful!). When not writing, Jason zips between Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas. He dreams of owning a Pomeranian ranch, becoming a merman, and persuading the last of the really great Whangdoodles to run for president. Also, he’d like to meet Anjelica Huston. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend.