My parents sent me to dance classes and painting lessons at a very early age. I was one of the few children who didn’t grumble about these after-school activities, simply because it was better than being sent to arts and crafts or sewing school. I never understood, however, why the teachers always said that to be a great artist one has to suffer. It was no problem to grasp the concept of the starving artist, which is why one should always have a day job if you are just starting out as one form of artist or another. Sales will not happen that easily, and like it or not, you are going to lose money before actually earning it.
It was only I began writing seriously and putting my heart and emotions on my sleeve that I learned the importance of personal experience in providing insight, credibility, and authenticity. You cannot learn about the pain of a failed relationship, the loss of a child, the failure of a marriage, the betrayal of a friend or the effect of poverty on your personal existence. No amount of research will ever match personal experience, because it happened to you. Not even your best friend can accurately describe what is going on in your mind or heart, or even understand the emotional turmoil raging within you.
In the same manner that awareness, sensitivity, and mindfulness of the photographer provide a very different depth to an image, a keen eye for detail and human condition keep the readers hooked on the story. The older I get, the slower I move through a meal at a restaurant or meander through a mall. I budget more time to make my way to and through an airport or train station, simply because I want to indulge in the moment, without rushing, and soak in the sights, sounds, smells, touches, tears, anger, and even laughter. Being in the moment, and seizing the opportunity to incorporate it in a scene in the book has become a form of roving workshop. The classic writers of bygone eras carried notebooks and journals with them, today we have tablets and laptops, or even the cameras on our mobile phones, any device possible to preserve what your mind will discard after 45 minutes.
Laughter, I find, is one of the hardest things to preserve as a memory and describe it accurately. There is the hollow, fake laughter, or the genuine one that might even move the person to tears. But between these two is a plethora of other laughs that are very tricky to pin down, and no camera will help you unless you have experienced them yourself. How do you laugh at your own mistakes? How different is your laughter shared with children and pets? What about the laughter shared among colleagues?Compare that to the laughter that sheds all inhibitions when you are with your best friends, or the laughter you share with a lover. None of these are possible to research, and in some cases even experience, unless you have a sense of humour.
Now why do I bring this up? Because a sense of humour is one of the fundamental tools of getting through life’s tragedies with dignity. It has taken me years to learn to laugh at my problems first before I sit down and have a good cry, and then pick myself up and laugh all over again. Carpe diem – seize the moment, but also seize the laughter. Learn to incorporate risus purus and not just risus sardonicus in your day.
Laugh the same way you love – unconditionally.