Saturday, September 7, 2013

Live Your Life

One of the most common questions I get at events is, "What advice do you have for aspiring writers?"

And typically, I say, "When given the choice between staying in your room and writing, and going out and experiencing something completely new, do the new thing."

This surprises some people. And don't get me wrong: practice makes perfect, and if you want to be a writer, you have to write. It's basically the most fundamental step of the process.

But you have to live, too.

And you have to live a wide variety of experiences. One of my favorite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do one thing every day that scares you." The more you experience--especially the things that seem scary or impossible or crazy--the better writer you are. Even if you're not writing a horror novel, you need to be able to describe the feeling of fear. Even if you're not writing a romance, you need to describe love.

And you never know where your experiences will take you. For example, one of the first videos I ever uploaded to YouTube is this one:

When I posted it--all the way back in 2010!--I was just sharing something cool I'd seen while traveling to Venice, Italy, with my class. It was a new experience, and one that I thought was amazing.

Three years later, glass and glass-making became an integral part to the development of Centauri-Earth in Shades of Earth.

I didn't go to the glass-making demonstration thinking I'd research my novel. I didn't even have the idea for the novel yet--and wouldn't for years to come! I was just experiencing life.

That is why life experiences are so important. If you feel writer's block, or are just bored with your writing, or even if you're not--don't put on blinders so big that you forget to experience new things. Discover the world around you so you can make up more worlds of your own.

Recently, I was at the beach with some of my family. While there, I went swimming alone, thinking about the new book series I'm working on. Before I knew it, I'd sketched out the entire opening of the second book. That was what I call "intentional inspiration." I was looking for inspiration, and focused on what I needed to do, and the story came to me.

But on the last day, we saw a lightning storm. A very HUGE, dramatic lightning storm, the likes of which I'd honestly never really seen before. I was in awe of it the entire time, shocked at the beauty and danger of nature.

And the storm found its way into the story, too. It wasn't intentional inspiration. It was life, seeping into the words of my novels. And that is often the very best inspiration there is.
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