After a recent difficult experience in my life a friend of mine offered, somewhat philosophically, "At least maybe you can use this in your next book."
At the time, the statement was enough to give me a smile, which was no small feat at that particular moment, and was much appreciated. Later though I began to realize the value in what she said. True, my characters, plot lines, and basically the whole novel, is fiction, a complete creation of my imagination. However, some things, such as delivering foals, or training rescue horses, I have done along with other situations my characters may experience. The story is fictional but some of the experiences have been borrowed from my life. This also falls back onto the old saying that authors write what they know, which in my case, is somewhat true.
It is fascinating to me the way a story weaves itself around us, regardless of if we are author or reader. Our own experiences shed light on the story whether we are writing or reading it, and give life to the passages the pages so elegantly carry. As a writer, I often have time when I get stuck and I struggle with the words, with the flow, with the characters even and it is then when I take a step back and to utilize another good piece of advice, this time from my father, "Use what you've got" or in this case, what I've got. I put myself in my character's place, I let the story envelop me, and on it goes, me not fighting the writing, but allowing the story to progress as it should, with me a part of it.
Every experience I have, as both a writer and a reader, comes into play, both as I read and as I write. To be honest, it shapes all that I do and I think that is why my favorite books are my favorites, they are part me just as the ones that I write. My life is intertwined with their pages just as it is with my own books and perhaps that is what makes a great novel, and perhaps what I try to do when I use what I've got to write.