From the Vein to the Page: Harnessing Your Personal Demons

namelessPeople used to ask me how I’d write. Was there a magical formula? Did I have the writing room set up just so? Was there a special snack or drink or set of pajamas, or something specific that made my Muse lay a hand on my shoulder and unfurl her wings?

“It isn’t like that,” I’d say. “I simply open a vein and let it seep onto the page.”

This, of course, is when I get the funny looks and that cool one-raised-eyebrow thing. Then they usually take a step back. Perhaps two steps. Then they’re simply running full-tilt away from me.

Screaming.

The “bleed onto the page” metaphor is one that is often used, and there’s a reason for this. It’s truthful. It’s powerful. And it captures the grit of using your personal demons in order to strengthen your work.

I wrote a novel called Nameless: The Darkness Comes. This book was exceptionally fun to write. The characters are quirky and quite flawed. Yet despite those flaws, they struggle to do their best for each other. They pull themselves together as best they can while facing the most awful of adversity.

What most people don’t know if that I lost two children while writing this book. I was carrying triplets, and while all three were in peril, one of them managed to survive. (She’s currently a powerhouse toddler with wild curls and an even wilder personality.) Her sisters were lost. Two identical little girls, one lost in utero while the other lived for five hours, long enough for me to become lucid after the delivery and hold her in my arms.

She was a perfect being. They both were.

It was difficult, to say the least. It hurt my heart and my soul. Thank goodness I was writing. Thank goodness I had somewhere to channel the grief and pain.

A child goes missing in this book. Gee, I wonder what inspired that event. The characters, who are rather hapless, drive themselves crazy trying to get her back. They fall apart. They can’t deal with it. They pick the pieces back up, sometimes. They move on. They break. They carry on with humor, supporting each other as best they can. They work through emotions that I hope seem realistic and true-to-form for somebody dealing with loss. I know they felt true while I wrote them. While I certainly never would have chosen this experience, I took the personal demons that I was dealing with and bled them directly onto the page. Not only did it help me, but I’m hoping that it helped to create a stronger, more realistic novel.

Everybody has something that turns their life inside out. Our emotions are beautiful things, and we can’t keep them under wraps all of the time.  We shouldn’t. As writers, it’s important to let those feelings flow onto the page. Maybe we’ve had a terrible day. Write it into your book. Perhaps something so remarkable happened that you’re absolutely giddy. Let the excitement infuse your writing. By letting your personal demons claw their way into your work, you’ll be giving your readers a more well-rounded experience with characters who feel developed. After all, you’ve instilled your emotions into them. This will help them sparkle. It will help them shine.

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2 thoughts on “From the Vein to the Page: Harnessing Your Personal Demons

  1. Heart-rending and true. People at the dayjob see me as friendly and cheerful. And I am. But they don’t know some of the blistering nightmares I’ve put down on page. This is why writers of our ilk band together so closely.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, my daughter has epilepsy and the first time I saw her fit, I thought I had lost her, the feeling is undescribable. The book Nameless the Darkness Comes is one of my all time favourites and the first book of yours I had read. It becomes more poignant now. Thank you for this post.

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