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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Agony or Ecstasy?

by Vinnie Hansen

Does writing make you insane or preserve your sanity? Salad Bowl Saturdays is pleased to welcome Vinnie Hansen to share her thoughts on the subject. Welcome, Vinnie! — Paula

Writing can drive me insane. As I used to tell my students, “It’s a short drive.”

There have been so many crazed authors, who can doubt the connection? However, perhaps the authors weren’t driven mad by writing, but became authors because they were mad. I’m sure there are moments when all of us think we are out of our minds to be engaged in the pursuit. George Sand called writing “a violent and indestructible obsession.”

Vinnie in high school 
On the other hand, just as often, writing preserved my sanity. I grew up in rural South Dakota in a poor family with ten children. My earliest writings were cathartic, bleeding-on-the-page productions, but they helped me heal. And many of the stories did go on to be published.

When I was in my thirties, my older sister—my best friend and a surrogate mother to me—struggled through chemo for breast cancer. When she eventually succumbed to the disease, writing allowed me to deal with the grief.

I’m not quite calloused enough that everything immediately becomes grist for the mill. When my father died, I cried and cried with nary a plot in my head. Eventually, though, every event is potential material. Sometimes I am aware of that even as an event occurs, and that helps me to put the occurrence into perspective.
Vinnie after 35 years of writing

With my work-in-progress I am grappling with the burglary of our house on the day before Thanksgiving, 2012. My husband and I came up the walk with our turkey as a burglar jumped over our backyard fence. My 63-year-old husband gave chase. I called 9-1-1. During the chase, the burglar twice pulled a gun and threatened to kill my husband. Fortunately, he did not. The police apprehended the criminal. The case went to trial in April, 2014, and the young man was sentenced this morning. I’ve coped with the fear, stress, and sadness by channeling it into fiction.

The Burglary
On a lighter note, fiction also allows me to see that an embarrassing moment can be funny—if framed in a story. For twenty years my husband participated in an art event called Open Studios. His studio is in our home, so during Open Studios, people would troop through our home to see his art. One year, my husband was out putting up his signs in preparation for the event. I was in the shower when I heard footsteps in the house. Dripping, I climbed out, threw on my robe, and encountered an over-eager art-loving couple padding around our living room. We were all embarrassed. But I knew it was funny. In my most recent Carol Sabala mystery, Art, Wine & Bullets, set during Santa Cruz’s Open Studios, I was able to incorporate the scene.

Writing allows us to convert tragedy and humiliation into drama and humor. What experience have you transformed via the magic of writing?

Vinnie Hansen
Vinnie Hansen is the author of the Carol Sabala mystery series: Murder, Honey; One Tough Cookie; Rotten Dates; Tang Is Not Juice, Death with Dessert and Art, Wine & Bullets. She was a 2013 Claymore Award finalist for her upcoming Carol Sabala mystery, Black Beans & Venom. A semi-finalist for the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, she has written many published short stories. Her story Novel Solution will appear in the upcoming anthology Fish or Cut Bait. Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz, California, with her husband, abstract artist Daniel S. Friedman.


Jim Jackson said...

Welcome to Salad Bowl Saturday, Vinnie. I find that much of my writing is an exploration at one level or another of questions that I am interested in.

The most recent instance of my stealing from my past revolved around moving to a new school up north bringing with me an accent from the south. That incident and some related school issues found resolution in the short story I wrote that was accepted for the forthcoming Guppy Anthology, Fish or Cut Bait.

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

There's a saying that there's a very fine line between insanity and genius. While I wouldn't claim genius status for most writers, I do think the same is true for the creative mind. And most writers feel compelled to express their creativity in writing.

All of our writing is an expression of who we are and what we have experienced. We all reach into our bags of experience, as well as our imaginations, to write our stories.

Warren Bull said...

I really don't know what I would have done after my bone marrow transplant because of Multiple myeloma if I had not been able to write about ordeal.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Vinnie. I write because I have to. There was a long period when I was raising four kids in less than five years that my writing consisted mostly of letters to my sisters away at college. After the death of my oldest son to cancer at the age of eighteen, I turned to poetry. It helped the grieving process. Now I write poetry, books, short stories, letters, blogs and keep a daily journal. I can't not write. Crazy? Some would think so because I'm always grumbling about not enough time. :-)

Micah said...

Well said Vinnie. I too teeter on that I sharing my insanity on the page, or is it insane if I do not write, or then again, do I find my sanity in writing? It is all grist I suppose. There is no place, no time, or question, no relationship, no circumstance, or situation, that does not lend itself to a story.

Vinnie/ said...

I can't wait to read your story!

Vinnie/ said...

Thanks for all your comments. Guy de Maupassant said, "Whether we are describing a king, an assassin, a thief, an honest man, a prostitute, a nun, a young girl, or a stall holder in a market, it is always ourselves that we are describing.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Vinnie, thanks so much for being with us at WWK. Best wishes to you in your writing.