Thursday, July 22, 2010

Relationships--how they fuel your writing


Nine years ago, when I relocated to Florida, I left behind a community of friendships I’d cultivated for twenty years. Great friendships. People I still call my friends and who I visit each year when I return home.

Nine years later, I can count on one hand how many close relationships I’ve built here. Orlando is a transient area made worse by the plunging economy. People I’ve met have moved away or broken off with their spouses or changed jobs. Neighbors rarely wave and most of the churches are so large, I never see the same people twice.

Relationships fuel my stories. And they fuel who I am.

Without them, I dry up. Without them, my writing becomes artificial.

So I've found creative ways to fuel my need to connect. I started a writer’s group. I teach senior citizens memoir writing. I ran a woman’s group in our church. Each has their season. But again, once that time ends, so do most of relationships. People move on. People live a distance apart. People enjoy busy lives.

(And trust me, I'm friendly. My dining room table has seen it's share of new faces.)

Would I love to live someplace else? Would I love to live where once again I knew everyone on the streets and enjoyed a little history with them? Of course. But for now, God has placed me here.

What does that mean for my writing? It means I'll have to dig a little deeper to write about those strings that connect, those moments we tuck away in our memories, and those characters who make us chuckle.

How do your relationships fuel your writing?

41 comments:

Amy DeTrempe said...

I lived in Tucson for four years after living my entire life in one town. It was the same situation, very few friends. We moved back and have not left here since. I am not sure how relationships fuel my writing but I think with each one, no matter how short or how long a bit of them stays in your memory.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Terri...though I have seen that many writers live alone for long stretches of time when they write, I cannot survive without my loved ones (family and friends). Relationships surely fuel my writing, its because of my relationships that I can add depth and dimensions to my characters, make my characters more rounded.

Jan Cline said...

How true. Relationships are the most fulfilling, exasperating, exhilarating, discouraging, necessary part of being human. I know I'd be sitting at your table if I were in Florida!

Kenda said...

Last time I moved was when I got married, and then I relocated only 100 miles down the road. So I've been established in one place for a long time. Still, even with continuing relationships thru the years, I find myself observing the stranger in the check-out line, the child at the ice-cream stand, and wonder what their story might be. And so another "what-if" begs to be explored :-)

Great question. Food for thought...

Susan said...

Hi Terri...What a great idea to run a memoir writing group for senior citizens. Now that I would really love. Hmmmm. You have sparked an idea for me.

As far as relationships go, it is the core of writing. It's what I write about and for whom I write! Otherwise, I'd be totally isolated and what good would that be?

Take care and have a great day. Susan

Beth Mann said...

This totally struck a chord with me! I moved FROM Florida TO Georgia a little more than three years ago, and I felt the exact same way. I didn't realize how hard it would be to form new relationships (and I'm a friendly girl like you!).

I think going through those feelings of loneliness and longing for what I used to have gave me an "arsenal of angst" as I like to call it :). It has actually worked to the benefit of my stories, since a few of my characters experience loss and anxiety in different ways.

Great post!

Julie Jarnagin said...

I'm a classic introvert. I don't have a lot of friends, but I keep the people I love really close to me. My husband is the opposite. He has a ton of good friends. It helps to have him to draw from in my writing.

Lin Floyd said...

well i mostly write for therapy from many unfulfilling relationships and longings. Have found many new friends from blogging who encourage me and let me peek into their lives.

Jeanette Levellie said...

What an excellent question, Terri!

Relationships fuel my writing by giving me stories to write about, people who love me enough to critique my work, and a few precious ones who pray for me to succeed. Those are rare soul ties that I'm so thankful for.

After almost 11 years in IL, I still miss my CA friends. We went from city to country, but our hearts were knit together as we prayed together for nine years.

LOve you,
Jen

Jolene said...

It's not just personal relationships but watching other around me. I love change, I love the new perspectives and new outlooks that come with change. The great thing that comes from living in an age of the internet is that even my good friends who live far away, are still part of my life.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I miss my friends, but I'd never want to leave my mountain cove - mountains are in my blood and this is Home -though it took many years to get Home.

But - I do get lonely for friendship here - I spend an awful lot of time alone - GMR is here, but he doesn't count *laughing* I mean my friend friends - my women friends or even men and women friends I had in the writer's group I used to be long to.

My writing deals a lot with family relationships and friendships, but usually from the eyes of a young girl - my lack of good women friends to "hang out with" probably does influence my writing...look at Virginian Kate - she has one friend: Jade!

Melissa had one friend: Sweetie.

Saumya said...

Wow!! Good for you for starting a writer's group! My novel is all about relationships so I'd say they are the skeleton and flesh of my writing!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Sometimes it's the people I come across briefly in life who are the ones I draw from for my characters. Isn't that funny?
I think it's awesome you started a writer's group. Such support is really great.

Lynn said...

Relationships more than fuel my writing--they fuel just about every area of my life. But I've been changing, and some of my friends have fallen away but a few core ones remain that I may not see very much, but even just a phone call or email lifts my spirit. Attending groups events at my church has been really helpful too. I'm sure you're lifting those ladies up at the groups you have started!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Wished you lived here in Louisiana. We're so friendly, you're just brought into the family automatically. :)

I think you've done a great job of opening your arms to friendship...in real life and in the blogosphere too.

Linda Glaz said...

Wonderful! And that's what we're all here for, to help, and lift up one another as encouragers. You do a lot for others. Good for you,

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Relationships - first with the Lord - and then with friends are key to my writing.

When I moved down here after I got married, I left behind friends who were more like family. While hubby was sweet and loving, I missed those connections. We still see each other, but not as often.

The Lord answered my prayer with a wonderful church family and writer friends, both locally and online.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Lydia Kang said...

Great post Terri!
My family and friends fuel my heart and soul, and my writing friends keep my spirits up dealing with the craziness of writing!

Just Be Real said...

What an adorable picture. All I can say is the journey that I am presently going through and the people that I interact with influences my journaling on my blog. Thanks for sharing this post. Blessings to you Tiffany.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I've noticed that some of the most welcoming, kind people are those who have relocated frequently. They understand the heartache and the loneliness. We've moved three times in the last decade, and the second move was the hardest. I never found a niche or truly settled in, despite my best efforts. I was always a stranger in a strange land.

I tell my friends that I think all the people who have never relocated to a strange place should have to do it, just once. When a woman has a tight circle of friends and has never gone without them, it can be easy to get hardhearted. It's too easy to think that we "don't have time" to include others who aren't blessed in the same way.

kathy taylor said...

Yes, Orlando is awfully transient, and I used the selected adjective for a reason. It's a great spot to live, though, so much to do. I'd love it if we could have a FL ACFW meeting in Orlando, since it's pretty central to us all. I'm off topic! Oh well, it's been a long hot Florida day.

BeckyJoie said...

Terri, you've read my thoughts again.

patti said...

By giving me STORIES!! For some reason (or perhaps it's God's gift) people gab with me, and I get their stories.

Like you, I'm doing the memoir teaching thing. TALK ABOUT STORIES!!!

(Should we have our folks sign disclaimers, or do you think the shirt: Don't Talk to Me or You'll Wind Up In My Novel) is fair warning?
LOL.
Patti

Jackee said...

Digging deeper is such a postivie attitude! :o)

I would love to hear how you started up your senior citizen writing group, I'm really wanting to do one for teens. Please do share! :o)

And in other news, you've won something on my blog. Have a great weekend!

Jackee said...

Digging deeper is such a postivie attitude! :o)

I would love to hear how you started up your senior citizen writing group, I'm really wanting to do one for teens. Please do share! :o)

And in other news, you've won something on my blog. Have a great weekend!

Margo Berendsen said...

I so understand what you mean! You put it so well "Each has their season. But again, once that time ends, so do most of relationships. People move on. People live a distance apart. People enjoy busy lives." I understand this, but I still struggle with this. I'm the type of person built for lasting relationships. I treasure my long term friends that are willing to keep in touch with me even when they move away or circumstances move us apart.

I'm not sure how this side of my personality relates to my writing though. You've given me something to analyze!

arlee bird said...

I can relate very much to what you are saying. Nearly 20 years ago I moved from TN, where I had a great many friends and family, to the Los Angeles area, where I knew virtually no one. I was so involved with work that I had few contacts outside that and some friends from church. But the friendships were nothing like those in TN where I felt comfortable just dropping in on people. Now I rarely visit anybody. It probably helps my writing not to be socializing too much, but I agree I may be missing out some with one on one relationships when I'd like to socialize. May have to think in some of the ways that you started thinking in your move.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Nancy said...

My stories revolve abound family life, but friends come into them, too. Since I write children's stories, I recall many children I used to know. Teachers have access to quite a few.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Sometimes relationships fuel my writing, sure. I think about specific people as I develop my hero & heroine, snippets of dialogue, quirks of behavior.
And sometimes relationships deplete my writing. Because sometimes you have to choose: relationships or writing?
And relationships sometimes trump writing.

sarah said...

People are at the heart of most of my stories...although I do have a couple of stories I've written for my kids using a dandelion or some animal but they too all have human emotions and motivations etc...Ithink it's great you started those groups....you have an amazing inner strength...that truly inspires.

T. Anne said...

I live in L.A, I really should be more connected with local writers but unfortunately being a busy mom doesn't always agree with that. Someday...

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Nehha N Josshi said...

I have lived in 5 cities since I was a kid and I have had my share of emotional attachments becoming distant. Lots n lots of people have come and gone. I read somewhere that the people who remain connected with are the people who are meant to be :)

Amie B said...

or you can write about how a lack of those relationships impacts one of your characters.

for me, i don't think relationships fuel my writing as much as experiences do. i'm very much impacted by death, loss and the possibility of our souls. i guess that's why my stories tend to be so dark.

Deb Shucka said...

There's blessing in digging deeper, don't you think - benefit and gifts to be found in the wilderness? It sounds like a time of transformation for you.

Kara said...

My writing is fueled by my relationships. I have lived in places where it was hard to make friends and I agree it makes you dig deeper:)

LauraLee Shaw said...

It's easy to be transient here in Dallas too, but like you, I find excuses and reasons to connect with others. It fuels my writing, but it also fuels my faith. I hope the Lord brings lots of new and exciting relationships your way.

Julie Musil said...

I'm sure that wasn't an easy transition for you! You have such a great attitude, plunging in and getting to know so many other people.

My relationships definitely fuel what I write. Even the bad relationships from the past exist on the page!

Katie Ganshert said...

Wow, Terri, I have a post scheduled for tomorrow that talks all about my relationship with my family and friends as opposed to my relationship with other writers. Not quite the same, but along the same lines.

I have two amazing girlfriends who definitely fuel my writing. They are such a blessing.

Thanks for sharing your struggle. I hope God brings some close, lasting friends into your world very soon.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I'm dying over here... been the loneliest season of my life. I'm a people person as well, but this go around, it's been harder for me to connect with others. I'm working hard at having an outward focus, but it's not been easy.

Like you, I need people to fuel my pen. We've moved to a more transient area, so it seems people have less need for friendships... that is until I run into a "Doris" and I remember why I love life so very much.

Investing.

I pray God brings you many good opportunities this week for a personal investment from your precious heart.

Lots of love.

peace~elaine

Heckety said...

Perhaps it can also free you emotionally to write? That you're not being always pulled away by a friend's need?
But it sounds hard to me, I'd find it hard, I like knowing everyone and their Granny, and you sure couldn't say our Churches were too big- sometimes the Minister has to shout a five minute warning to get folks into their pews so he can begin the Service! Being a rural Parish we LOVE to visit with everyone before and after the Service!!