Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. ~Catherine Drinker Bowen, Atlantic, December 1957
Do you ever wonder where stories come from? Where writers and novelists and storytellers get their stories?
I have to admit, every time I read a story, especially a book that I LOVE, I wonder what inspired the author to come up with that particular story. Where did they get the idea, the characters, the conflicts … did they draw them from their own lives?
Sometimes, it’s easy to guess: some writers have great imaginations. Others have watched a lot of television and regurgitated what they have already seen done, in a different order. And sometimes, writers produce something authentic–something really fresh and new. Something that makes a reader say WOW! That is when I guess the writer has actually lived it or drawn from listening to someone else’s firsthand experience.
I love a story that wrenches emotions that could’ve only been composed from the writer having experienced those emotions before herself. I race through stories that take me somewhere I’ve never been, that help me to smell and see and experience a new place through rich prose, and bring the setting to life in words– because the author has actually been there.
There is a place called the Intersection of Living and Writing … and the only way to get there is by learning to live a great life.
If our writing is born of our experiences, then our experiences need to be rich so that we have something interesting to draw from. Because, if we want people to want to read our work, then it needs to be interesting (fresh, authentic, colorful, new) or it will be put down and stashed away before the reader gets to page five.
Here are a handful of ideas to living a more interesting (colorful, fun, adventurous) life:
1) Think of one place within five miles of your home — somewhere you have never been but always wanted to visit.
Go there this week. Was it what you expected?
2) Stop yourself in the grocery store during your routine shopping. What is one thing that you never buy that you’ve always wanted to try.
Buy it. Try it. What do you think?
3) Pull out a map of the state or country where you now live. Find one place you’ve always wanted to see.
Plan a road-trip there for sometime in the next three months. Biking, hiking, camping, driving, train-riding? Give it a try! Afterwards: What did you discover?
4) In your everyday routine, think of one person you see regularly who you have never talked to before.
Introduce yourself. What did you learn?
5) Consider one friend who you have not had a chance to hang out with lately. Ask them out to lunch.
Did you gain a peek inside their world?
I think to be able to write something great, a story that is interesting and stays interesting and draws the reader in, we need to stretch ourselves. We need to be better at living before we can be great at writing. We need to work on our personal stories before the story we are writing can really sing.
How about you? Do you think there is a connection between writing and living?