Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

It’s All Grist for the Mill…

with 8 comments

As a storyteller, no matter how halting I find the process to be sometimes, I’ve learned one thing and one thing only in this life:

It’s all grist for the mill.

What do I mean by this? Well, everything that happens, good and bad — but most especially the bad — can be used in a positive way toward illuminating your stories.


Well, think about it. When someone tells you off, how do you feel in that moment? What would you do differently, if you could? What would you do better? Or what, if the devil on your shoulder was in charge for a moment — for story purposes only, of course! — would you do worse, to get a bit of your own back?

See, we’ve all been there.

We’ve all had someone tell us off. We’ve all had someone treat us terribly, for no reason, without warning.

And we’ve all been unable to do what we wanted in those moments, for good or ill…and the virtue of storytelling is, you get to figure out what you might’ve done, and how it might’ve been, without hurting yourself or anyone else. (While making it fun to read, too, if you do it right. Otherwise, why bother?)

Mind, the good things are also grist for the mill.

We’ve all had wonderful, amazing, spine-tingling things happen. Maybe they’re split-second things, like seeing a double-rainbow (or better yet, the Northern Lights — I hope to see that someday). Or they’re the most astonishing things ever known to man, like climbing Mount Everest…or, closer to home, finding someone who loves you, warts and all, and cares only about you and nothing but you — not your bank account, not your health or lack thereof, not your putative beauty or lack thereof either, but YOU.

These things all illuminate your stories. They make them deeper. Richer. More intense. More believable. More relatable. And more interesting by far.

So, the next time you have a bad day, try to remember this: it’s all grist for the mill. It may help. And even if it doesn’t, you can tell yourself in your best Evil Writer (TM) voice, “Hey, I’m going to remember this person, and– (insert worst possible thing you’d do to him/her here)” and that may get you to laugh.

What’s grist for your mill? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2019 at 12:55 am

8 Responses

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  1. c4c

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    March 27, 2019 at 8:22 am

  2. Not much of a writer to comment on “what I’d do or have done”, but I thought it is interesting to point out what David Drake has done.

    Years ago, a “stuck-up idiot” named Pratt made a terrible/insulting review of one of his books and David Drake countered by having a character named after him in his books.

    The “Pratt” character is always a minor character that David’s main characters always get the better of. Never a “great evil”, just somebody that deserves whatever happens to him. 😉

    Oh, one thing I’d never do is bring modern politics into the story. IE I’ll never have “Hillary Clinton” as a major villain. 😀

    Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    March 27, 2019 at 11:02 am

    • LOL Good thoughts with regards to not bringing modern politics into it. I think that’s too difficult to do right now. It’d throw people right out of the story no matter what side you’re on. The only way you could possibly do it is if it were an alternate history of some sort…and even then, you’d have to do it carefully.

      Good for David Drake, BTW. 🙂 (I’m glad that he didn’t do that to me…)

      Barb Caffrey

      March 27, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      • You are a much nicer person than Pratt. 😉

        Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        March 27, 2019 at 2:16 pm

      • Thanks! 😀

        Barb Caffrey

        March 27, 2019 at 4:41 pm

  3. Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Thoughts on having a bad day…

    Jack Eason

    April 2, 2019 at 12:38 am

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