“Are you going to put me in one of your books?”

“If you wou’d not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.”

The quote above is credited by many sources to Benjamin Franklin. Did he say it? Most likely, or he may have derived his own interpretation of it from someone else who came before him and reworded it to make it his own. Either way, I’ve always loved it. It’s one of my favorites.

However, an alternate interpretation to me is to do great things with your life and leave it to someone else to write about. To allow a writer to tell the story of your triumphs. I say why not both? Do those triumphant things yourself and tell your own story whenever possible. Some triumphs are small and live in the hearts and minds of everyone we meet, if you watch and listen with more than your eyes and ears.

I believe at it’s root, this quote simply means to do something with your life. Tell your stories and share them with the world and if you’re not telling the stories, go out and live them and share them. Not that you must experience something in order to write about it or the old lie, “Write what you know.” I’ve written books about pirates and I’ve certainly never been one nor lived in the 1800’s. I’m also certain those who write about intergalactic battles and super heroes have never been in space, met aliens or flew a Millennium Falcon but they sure as hell can make us believe they have! Although just between us, I do believe in the force…the force within the human being and how we relate to the universe and those around us.

As writers, we draw on many sources of inspiration from music to emotions, from events that moved us deeply, to episodes in our lives that we reflect upon with either great joy or sadness. One thought leads to another and another until the idea evolves into an inspiration and then into words on pages. It’s like freaking magic to me when it happens! Either way, the writer’s imagination is the source of our creations, and everything around us is fair game. We absorb experiences, energy and emotions, bend them, break them, mold them and ultimately recycle that energy into something new…something personal and uniquely us. Something that definitely feels a little miraculous.

Speaking of inspirations; mine is people. Most of my stories are character driven. Although the plots move the characters forward like the wheels on a cart, they don’t outweigh the importance of the decisions and personalities of the characters. The characters decide where the cart goes.

I want my characters to come to life for you. I want them to be real and solid and as such, most of them are based in part on actual people I know or have known in my life or at the very least, the essence of the energy of that person and how I’ve come to know them…of course the names and situations have been changed to protect the innocent. 😉

It’s always come very naturally to me as far as getting into a person’s energy and figuring them out pretty quickly before they even know I’m in there, but usually it happens quite organically. I don’t intentionally set out to “feel” them. It just happens and it’s such a blessing! Being open enough to allow this sort of osmosis of energy creates a well of beautiful, individual human experiences to draw from. Some have repelled me the moment I tune in and I struggle to stay put, while others…a breath of fresh air comes to mind.

I’ve had a few people ask, “Are you going to put me in one of your books?” My response is usually, “That depends on how much you let me in and allow me to know.” Sometimes my answer is, “Do you want to be?”

Not everyone I meet or know makes their way into my stories but many do. Some know it going in and some do not know it to this day. People are so much more interesting and powerful than they know. All it takes is a little time to feel them out and once they get inside of me, I cherish them and want to build a character with that little snippet of energy I absorbed.

As much as I wish I could, I can’t live a thousand lives or have the time to experience everything I want to…lord knows I try but people are amazing and exciting and wonderful. Open up to me for a few minutes and tell me your story and I’ll listen for as long as you need me to.

I believe at our core, writers are like sponges…I’d go so far as to say all artists are, from visual artists and dancers to musicians. Just as music evokes emotion and gazing at a classical painting can take your breath away, when you read or see or hear what that artist has put into their creation, all of that energy and imagination flows into you. That’s the wringing of the sponge. We absorb everything in our surroundings and then wring it all out into our work. I suppose that’s an odd analogy but in my mind, it works like that.

I love people. Sometimes I hide and close myself off from them when I need to recharge but when I catch that wave of good energy, be it a stranger or a friend, and they want to share a story or spend a few minutes exchanging whatever is flowing between us for that amount of time, you better believe I’m going to absorb it and feel it and store it. Those exchanges make life worthwhile. Those connections are the Force. Life, love, joy, pain, confusion, sadness, all of that and more like the air we breathe keeps us all connected and keeps the imagination expanding…they keep the writer writing.

“If you wou’d not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.”

Or better yet, just share your story. Connect with another person who’s willing to listen. Everyone has something unique to them to offer. After all, who are we but the sum of all of our experiences? Good or bad, some stories beg to be told and to be heard.

Some stories are just people being people. Neat, messy, strong, vulnerable, narcissistic, guarded, pleasant, reserved, real, fake, genuine, and all shades in between. I see you. The real you. I feel you. I’m all ears.

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