Tag Archive: Anton Chekhov

Mar 08

Finding the Chemistry in my Writing

WHAT’S PLAYING:  The Wallflowers “I Wish I Felt Nothing”

“To a chemist, nothing on Earth is unclean. A writer must be as objective as a chemist.”

Anton Chekhov

I just started work on a new project this week. It’s still very much in the early stages, but it deals with some very unpleasant subject matter – rape, murder, and suicide. (Did I mention that it’s YA?)

I’m very passionate about this project, but sometimes I wonder if I’m skilled enough to handle it with the sensitivity and unflinching honesty that it deserves. I wonder if I’m going too far, if I should pull back a little and let my protagonist off the hook. Not to mention the effect it’s having on me. Sometimes I have to take a break because I find myself getting too emotional. So why do I do it? Why wallow in filth and horror when I don’t have to?

One simple reason…because the story demands it.

I won’t lie to you, sometimes I want to abandon this project and turn to something lighter, funnier, something uplifting. But I can’t. Not because I don’t enjoy writing humor or escapist fantasy. It’s because I know that if I turn my back on this story – the story I’m burning to tell in the here and now – simply because it makes me uncomfortable, then I might as well quit writing all together.

It’s at those times – times when I’ve poured so much raw emotion on to the page that I feel drained and deflated – that I have to remember that pain is a part of life. Pretending otherwise is not only foolish, but also makes for boring stories. As a nuclear chemist, I handle dangerous and volatile substances every day. So, why shrink from them when it comes to writing?

I love science. It’s steady, predictable. It makes sense. Math and science are the only constant things in this ever-changing world.

I love writing for the opposite reason. Anything is possible in fiction. Dragons and unicorns exist, the past can be altered and happy endings are guaranteed.

Writing and chemistry are the two great loves of my life. Together, they allow me to explore new worlds while keeping me firmly grounded in this one.

What more can a science nerd/fantasy geek ask for?

 

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