Hello, and welcome to the June round of Writers Reveal! This month’s topic was sent to us by Melissa of Melissa Writes. Her topic for us is: “When life gives you lemons… how do you keep on writing?” Challenge accepted! Thanks for the prompt, Melissa!
What to do when life tries to give you lemons?
Everyone knows that famous saying: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We also understand what it means: instead of getting discouraged about life’s challenges (the proverbial lemons), one should strive to turn them into positive experiences (the proverbial lemonade). So we take that advice to heart and try our best to live with optimism, because we know deep down that life is best experienced with sweet refreshing lemonade as opposed to a pile of yucky sour lemons.
This is what “normal” people do. But not writers. We do very different things with the lemons life gives us. Not always, but often. Why? Because sour or sweet, they pose equal safety and risk to our writing. Yes, pure lemonade is great, but while it’s beneficial to real life experience, time spent making it is time taken away from the art that in many cases thrives on the lemons as well.
So what does my inner writer tell me to do when life tries to give me lemons? It depends on the situation, but she sometimes likes to take an alternative route to the traditional approach.
Throw the lemons back!
When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don’t want your damn lemons! What the hell am I supposed to do with these? Demand to see life’s manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I’m the man who’s gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I’m gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!
– Cave Johnson, Portal 2
OK, so I wouldn’t go as far as trying to invent combustible lemons, but sometimes when life drops too many obstacles at once into my course of writing, I just get frustrated. I wish I had the motivation to be optimistic all the time, to keep on creating the stories that so often themselves are the lemonade of my life. But the types of challenges I usually face actually keep me from making that lemonade and instead seem to push me into making some kind of lemon sorbet. And while I do come out of them a better person each time, how fulfilling can that truly be if they rob me of the time to put that new experience to the best use I know how?
So once in a while, when I’m tired of being bombarded with life’s lemons, I grab them and throw them back. I refuse to make anything out of those lemons. I try to forget they exist and just concentrate on writing about things completely unrelated to whatever I’m going through at the moment. Is that irresponsible? Maybe. Almost definitely, in fact. But that’s what I do. There are times when I need a break from life altogether, and more often than not, writing is just the thing to help me recharge so that when life decides to throw those lemons at me a second time, I’ll be ready to turn them into some darn good lemonade.
Make your own lemons! Whaaat?
Life isn’t really life without its fair share of challenges, but some of us are lucky enough to experience an opposite kind of existence, where lemonade is constantly handed to us free of charge and all we have to do is sit back and enjoy. I’m fortunate enough to live without major struggles that relentlessly test my inner strength and push me to a potential breaking point over and over again. I am one of the lucky ones. Life gives me more lemonade than lemons, and for that, I am grateful.
Having said that, this also poses a hazard to writing. Nobody wants to read stories where everyone is happy all the time and nothing bad ever happens, because those would be ridiculously boring. As much as they threaten our creative time, writers need lemons because they provide inspiration for the conflicts in our fiction. So what do I do when life won’t give me those lemons? I make my own.
I know it would be unwise to purposely create complications for myself (which I sometimes do anyway, but that’s beside the point). Life is going to hand out plenty of those on its own, so there’s no need to add to the burden if it can be avoided. Instead, I try to imagine challenges I’ve never personally faced… and then make my characters face them. Essentially, I play the part of life by giving out the lemons.
I’ve written stories about forbidden love, prejudice and senseless hatred. I’ve pitted characters against each other in action scenes fraught with violence. I’ve made them face all sorts of creatures from dragons to giant robots. I’ve subjected them to enough emotional stress to drive a real person close to a breakdown. But the best part of it all is making my characters take on all these challenges and overcome them. In a way, it’s reassuring to see them take all the lemons I give them and turn them into lemonade, because it’s as if my subconscious is telling me that if my own characters can make the best of an imaginary life, then I can certainly make the best of a real one.
When life gives me lemons, how do I keep on writing? Sometimes I don’t, but when I do, I do my best to turn those lemons into the most delicious lemonade ever.
What about you? What do you do with the lemons life gives you?
This has been a special topic post for Writers Reveal, a monthly blog swap among several talented writers. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!