Writing from experience

We’re always told the most powerful writing comes from experience. This, I suppose, is because we have a particular insight into the material. I hadn’t thought about it much, beyond what I’ve just said, until yesterday. Yesterday was my daughter’s first birthday party. We had about twenty friends over and numerous small children. They all enjoyed eating the food my wife and I slaved over all saturday. We could have bought all the food, but we enjoy cooking, so we did.

The Experience

As if running a first birthday weren’t experience enough, on the saturday night, I discovered the hard way that the chicken was tainted. At about ten that night I went to bed feeling bloated and a bit sick. I figured it was just the beer I’d had combined with a long day and not enough sleep. At eleven thirty I yawned a yawn verging on the Technicolor. It went downhill from there. I’ll leave out the finer detail, but by the time I was at my in-laws farm waiting for the first guests to arrive I felt like death. I hadn’t slept all night, my guts roiled and churned and the mere thought of food made me swallow heavily. I spent much of the day in bed, rising occasionally to be sociable and to drink apple juice. The peculiar thing about this episode was that throughout it I was thinking of how I would describe it in writing. I was aware of my condition and was mentally taking notes about it. Before taking up writing I never did such things. I’ve found myself doing it with other experiences too. A delicious meal I had, a funny moment, the feeling of dread just as my little girl fell from the couch and others.


I wonder if it is something we should all do, regardless if we are writing or not? Since paying attention to my daily experiences I feel I’ve gained insight into myself and more fully appreciate things as they happen. When I was running my first marathon and my legs twitched with pain with each plodding foot fall I was secretly observing the sensation, documenting it even while I agonised through it. I think we should all pay attention to our experiences, even the bad ones. We don’t have time machines to allow us to go back so it is only memories that we have. The stronger those memories, the more rich a life we live don’t we?

Suffice to say I now have the “joy” of food poisoning to add to my experiences from which I can draw to add spice to my writing. Have you found yourself taking notes even as you are going through something great, or horrible?


About sjohnhughes

Author, nerd, father, runner and more View all posts by sjohnhughes

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