For Valentine's Day my sweet husband ordered "Becoming Jane" from netflicks. He gift wrapped it and promised to watch it with me, which for him was slow torture (he likes shoot'em up, mindless action), which is why I thought it was so sweet. So we sent the children to bed early, put in the movie and it was the wrong one! We ended up watching another movie which neither of us liked but its the thought that counts.
The reason I brought this up is last night I finally got to watch "Becoming Jane." When the show ended, it left me unsettled. Bottomline, the reason she wrote the stories she did was a result of her failed relationship. It was a way that she could vicariously "rescript" her unsatisfying existence. When I was at college, I was horrified at the background of each of my favorite writers. It seemed like the writers with the most fire were those with the most tortured lives. (see more at http://www.dailycardinal.com/article/874)
Looking at my own situation, I know the first draft of my first manuscript was exactly that. It flowed as I whipped out all the clever phrases I wished I had said to women that had been so catty to me. I twisted the plot to give them their just desserts or to wake them up to what they were doing. I ranted for nearly 800 pages and it was marvelous therapy but it wasn't great writing. After many edits, I totally threw away the main story but found during the entire event, I wanted something special to balance the story and created an uplifting and amazing subplot. It was when I polished this idea, that I felt I had something that was of real value.
Facing my next project has been an interesting challenge. Without the drive of emotion pushing me forward, I don't feel compelled to write but want to. A great story seemed to blossom in my mind and when I try to reach for something else, it wiggles out and won't leave me alone. It's a nice feeling, like a friend coming to visit and I'm enjoying this process.
The difference between venting and inventing is substantial. I don't believe good writers need to be tortured, although writing is a great way to figure out what is really happening to ourselves and our lives. But I do have to ask the question, how much of your writing is spurred on by personal conflict. Like a painter who works off a still life or Norman Rockwell who used photographs that he interposed into Americana scenes, isn't the well we draw from our own experience?
Perhaps it is because I am such an inexperienced writer that most of my characters are friends or people I have met or observed, cast into the roles in my story. Then I simply imagine what they would say in that circumstance. I try to be true to their motivations and driving forces through out the story and have them come to some new truth through the experience.
I'm curious how you do it...