Monday, July 16, 2012

Remember the girl in the fairytale The Red Shoes? She wanted those shoes in the worst way—the very worst. And she died for them. Sometimes writers get on that merry-go-round and they don’t know how to get off. They keep whirling past their lives as the realities become a blur. Eventually the writing loses its validity.

Balance is the key to a successful life. How can a writer write about love, if he or she has not experienced it, observed it closely, or read about it recently? How does the Pacific Ocean sound in southern California as opposed to the pounding or susurrating surf of the southern Atlantic? If we write what we know, then we and our readers can re-experience it in our writing. The Red Shoes story (also turned into a ballet) is a perfect example of obsessive behavior that can be a writer’s downfall.

In the fairytale, the young girl lusts after the shiny shoes in the shoemaker’s window. She wants them at all cost. The evil shoemaker, a control freak and wizard, gives them to her, but at a price. Once they are on her feet she cannot stop dancing. She dances on begging others to free her of the curse (Success breeding success). But no one can help her. Just as respite is near, the shoes spring into action and take her away. Eventually she dies.

I see this as a metaphor for writers who don’t take vacations, don’t respond to friends unless they are fans who buy their books, or agents exploiting their talent. The writer dances into an early grave never having lived the life he or she has written about, because the writer hasn’t written a life for themselves to live. If we writers see ourselves in this example, it’s time to reorder our lives.

What are your priorities? If your career is your only goal, try to think back to your happiest moments before you began writing and relive those experiences in real time. Go back and look if possible. The landscape will have changed now that time and distance have intervened, but the fresh look reinvigorates the spirit. Once writing becomes “only a job,” there is no life, and the creating stops.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author ofWe Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare releases in December 2012. January 2013, Daughters of the Sea releases from MuseItUp Publishing. Visit Julie’s Web site at


Unknown said...

Time to time I have someone aspiring to be published ask "What does it take to write good stories?" and I always respond, "To experience the ups and downs of a full life.'

Hard to write about turmoil, depression, lost love, etc if ya never endured it. So what ever you write, pick something you've tasted, smelled, touched with your own senses.

Case in point, I'll be the first to admit that until I endured the suffering of cancer, no way I could depict the darkness fairly. I had no idea how deep you sink till you've ventured into that hell.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2011)

January Bain said...

Profound insight, Julie. And you are quite right, Mike, heaven and hell can be found right here on Earth...

Balance, that seemingly impossible state of being is what we all so desperately need. I have sometimes given too much up to work 2 jobs but fortunately I have a good man that reminds me of my real life.

And it is my life that I find the strength, the courage, and the power to write from.

Profound thoughts, Julie, so early in the morning. Well done!

Fondest regards,

Rhobin said...

Good post,and you are so right.

Allison said...

I'm with Mike. Until you've been to hell and back, you are missing out on the terrible trauma of nearly dying. Not that I wish it on anyone!!! I do know the experience will make me a better writer, and I appreciate things I used to take for granted. Like my kids. My daughter gave up four weeks of her life to be with me.

She left her husband,a new boat and a teenage daughter leaving home for the first time to take care of me. Makes you stop and think about life in general and yours specifically.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Allison, Having a child like that proves what a good example you have provided. Glad you're on the mend.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Your comments are appreciated, everyone.