As writers it is easy for us to stay inside our houses and ignore the world around us, but it is also the most crucial mistake that we can make. Our writing grows as we grow and we grow through experience more than we grow through age. Every writer should live their life to the fullest, not just so that they can tell their grandchildren stories, but because it adds depth to the stories we share with the world as well.
I do dream of making a living off of my writing by the time I am twenty-five, but that doesn’t mean I will not experience life fully. While I hope to make a living off of my writing by the time I’m twenty-five, I don’t necessarily want to be just a writer when I’m twenty-five. I’ll probably want to have a part time job of some kind-both as a backup plan and just to gain experience in the ways of the world.
Really, how I want to experience life is by traveling and studying. I want to see the world and I want to study it, its myths, its stories, its history. I want to learn about different cultures, from the Scottish that I am descended from to the Japanese whose cartoons I avidly watch. I want to study them, but I do not want to study from afar; I want to study right there, among the people of that culture. Being a full-time writer and traveling around the world is a big dream, but it is a dream.
But how does the average writer live their life to the fullest?
Slow down and take in the world around you. Appreciate the details. If you walk through a park, note each tree as you walk by, connect to the earth beneath your feet. If you’re on a train, look out the window and watch the world pass by-you never know what you might see, and there’s something thrilling about how it all seems to run in the other direction. Don’t eat your meals at top speed; slow down and savour them, appreciate the taste-and don’t forget to file a description in the back of your mind for when your characters eat the same thing.
Take the time to really appreciate life. Notice the little details in the world around you, especially the little details of nature-the call of each bird, the design on each leaf. You will be rewarded with a greater appreciation for the world around you and extra depth in your descriptive passages.
Break Out of Your Routine
Try new things, break away from the norm. Take your first yoga class or buy your first yoga mat and training DVD. Try a bellydancing course. Experiment with group meditation. Go to a center of learning from another religion and ask questions-but always ask them with the utmost respect.
Ultimately living your life to the fullest includes having some adventure. Some people are more adventurous than others; I like to go on fairly regular adventures, often with no real destination in mind. Follow your heart instead of your mind for a day and see where it takes you. Break away from the mundane and into the magical. Go out for a walk on a route you’ve never taken before. Go out to a poetry slam or a night of songs. Find something interesting to do and do it.
Adventure allows you not only to meet new people and have new experiences, but it gives you a feel for what true spontaneity is like. It adds depth to the strange turns of events in your novel if you’ve experienced a few strange turns of events yourself.
Be Open to Other People’s Views
You don’t have to accept somebody else’s point of view, but it’s important always to listen and consider. If somebody makes a statement you disagree with, ask them why they believe that. Listen to their story; you might learn something about humanity, and the more you know, the more your writing develops. You don’t have to initiate conversation, but if somebody starts talking to you, listen to what they have to say. (Unless they’re trying to shove their religion down your throat.)
Remember that every story has value, and no story is a waste of time. You will take something away from every conversation, even if you don’t consciously know what that is.
Face your Fears
It is often said that only by facing our fears can we overcome them, and that is part of my argument in favor of facing your fears. If you’re afraid of heights, not only will standing near the edge of a cliff or a tall building help you overcome your fear, it will also make a great descriptive exercise. It will give depth to both the fear in your characters and the scenes where they must face that fear.
I’m not telling you that if you’re scared of spiders you should go hang out with a tarantula; I am telling you that you should get out of your comfort zone and do things that make you squirm. You’ll grow as a person and you never know, you might find something wonderful sitting outside of your comfort zone.
Learn something New
Specifically I am talking about skills. It is one thing to read something in a book; it is quite another to go out and learn a new skill. Learning a new skill has all kinds of advantages. If you’re learning carpentry or basic plumbing, not only do you have a new skill, but you can also fix up your house, and you can write about a character who is a carpenter with more authenticity. To me the best kind of person is the one who is always seeking to make themselves better in a variety of ways, and the greatest writer is the one who seeks to make each story better than the last.
As a fantasy writer I would love to learn to ride a horse, shoot a bow with more precision, and to properly fight with a sword. I know that these things would add unimaginable depth to my writing and I believe it is almost essential to know these things to write medieval style fantasy, but I also think that they would be fun to learn. Never learn something just because you feel the need to learn; always seek out something that you enjoy.
Putting it all together
To be a great writer, you need to experience more than just the writing life. You need to experience and learn all about the world and the people around you. So when you plan out your days, make time for writing, and make time for adventure. Make time to walk around and enjoy the world. Make time to go out and learn new things, because without life experience, your writng will always be just words on a page.