Positive Out Of Negative – Allowing Your Difficult Childhood To Feed Your Muse

This is a guest post by author Ronnie L Richards

Ronnie L Richards is the author of "Shadow Comfort" and "Full Circle: A Life Story". He was raised in rural Oklahoma. He fell in love with reading as a young boy. Ronnie would use the alternate reality of the books he read to escape the harsh reality of his childhood. By the time he was thirteen, Ronnie had read nearly every book in his small town library. He doesn't have a favorite genre. He likes any book that pulls him into the characters' lives and takes him along with them on their journey. He received his BSB, MIS from Oklahoma City University.

I am often asked about my muse. It is assumed that since I am a writer, I must have a writing muse. That inner voice that inspires me to greatness as a writer.

I do. Just not what most people would consider a muse. I grew up in an abusive environment. The fear, the pain, and the anger of my childhood allow me to be in the moment of almost any difficult situation in my writing. When I am writing a scene that requires emotion. When I really need to pull a reader into the moment of a scene, I call on my young self. I tap into the raw, almost physical emotions of my childhood me.

You too, as a writer, can rely on those long forgotten, but often pent-up feelings of your childhood. Not everyone has a difficult childhood. Even if you had a near perfect, always happy childhood, you will still have memories of some difficult times. Maybe not as many as someone such as myself. But that does not matter. As a child, we all felt emotions on a deeper level than we do as jaded adults. We learn over the years to tone down our feelings. In order to survive, we dampen our reaction to difficult situations.

Let’s pretend you are writing about a young woman who lives alone. She is upstairs in her bedroom when she hears the third step from the bottom of the staircase squeak. The way it always squeaks when someone steps on that particular step. She doesn’t have time to escape out the bedroom door because it opens up on the small landing at the top of the stairs. So she hides in the closet, hoping the intruder does not know she is home.

You could say that she sat in the dark, shivering with fear. Or you could try to put your reader in the closet with her. Let them feel what she is feeling.

Take your hands off the keyboard or put down your pen. Let your mind drift back to a time when you were scared and alone in the dark. Now, focus on how you feel — alone, scared, huddled in the dark. Apply those feelings to the young woman hiding in the closet.

She squeezed herself as tight as she could into the darkest corner of the closet. She did not dare breathe. She pulled her knees up against her chest with shaking hands. Her fingers locked together in an attempt to stop them from shaking. Her bedroom door squeaked as it was being open. She clamped her eyes shut. Her heart hurt it was pounding so hard. Please, please, please, please, please her plea repeated itself over and over in her frantic mind. She could think of no escape. She could think of nothing but…
please…
please…
please…
please…
please…
She feels a shift in the air as her closet door is opened…

Even if you have never experienced a situation where you huddled in the dark in fear as a child, you can still work with those enhanced emotions felt by a child. Put your young self in that closet, fearing what may happen if the intruder finds you. Don’t think like the young woman. Think like a child. React like a child that is nearly paralyzed with fear. If you can put yourself in that closet, you can put your reader in that closet instead of sitting in a chair reading about the young woman hiding in the closet.

Many writers had difficult childhoods. Judging from other writers I know personally, a large percentage of us struggled through our childhoods. Use that struggle to add depth to your scenes. You might as well get some use out of those memories that you think you have buried. Once you start tapping into them, you will discover they are not buried nearly as deep as you believe. Get some positive out of the negative memories of your childhood. Allow your difficult childhood to feed your muse.