"How do your pets/kids/plants (something you take care of) influence your writing? Do they help you, or distract you? Do you include them in your stories?"
Laura's answer is here, and Lydia's is here. Deb is up next week! As for me ...
First, let me get this out of the way. I don't put people I know in stories. Not family members, not friends, not colleagues, not clients. I've never even considered it, and it has to do with why I write. See, some of us write to express ourselves. Some of us write to process what we've been through. Some of us write because our heads are full of stories just waiting to be told.
I write to escape.
When I write, I am not here. I'm gone, lost in that story, dwelling within my characters. I tune everything out and go to that protected place in my head. When I am under the most stress, when I am under the most pressure, when I feel like climbing the walls--that's when my daily word count goes up (should I mention that I wrote over eight thousand words on Monday?).
That kind of escape would be hard to achieve if I took all the people I know with me. It's not that I don't love them or care about them; quite the opposite. It's just that I'm one of the most seriously introverted people you'll ever meet, and I need that time inside myself to charge up.
However ... part of Deb's question was whether something or someone I take care of influences my writing. The answer to that is yes. The people I care for, both personally and professionally, absolutely influence my writing.
They've taught me to ask a very important question: what's it like to be you?
I spend a lot of my work time, and a great deal of my at-home time, thinking about the possible answers to this question. To come up with the answer, you kind of have to shed yourself and go wear someone else's skin ... metaphorically speaking, of course (those of you who've read some of my manuscripts might be wondering).
I've learned to ponder this question whenever I butt heads with someone, whenever I'm trying to figure out why someone is behaving in a way that's hurting both herself and all the people around her, whenever I'm trying to understand someone's next move or how he might react to something I'm doing.
I've come to the realization that this question--what's it like to be you?--is incredibly useful. And not just for interpersonal interactions. For character development, too! And I truly believe that whatever ability I have to crawl inside a character's head comes from the experiences I've had with the people I care for. I mean, if I bear some responsibility to a person, some power to change things for her, then I need to think about what it's like to see the world through her eyes. I'm grateful to every person who's been patient with me as I tried to figure that out.
How about you? How would you answer Deb's question? Do the things or people you take care of influence your writing? How?