Can venturing out into the world make you a better writer? You betcha! Here’s five reasons to push that chair back and separate yourself from the keyboard.
I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans. Colorful beads, bare boobs, and fried green tomatoes are just a few of the things I experienced…that–and loads of people. Now, I’ll confess–I seriously do not like crowds. They make me nervous and anxious and yet the experiences were exhilarating and the culture of Mardi Gras coupled with Southern hospitality offered eye-opening and inspiring adventures.
Booking this trip was a bit of a whim. I signed up to do a half marathon just as an excuse to travel there. Training was slow and steady–just like the Big Easy and I convinced my husband to enter the 10km race (this was a first for him).
The trip was awesome and I fell in love with New Orleans. It also served as a reminder to explore the world so that it can be reflected in my writing. The characters I met and the things that I saw will all make me a better writer. Here’s why:
- Reconnect with real people: As writers, we sit and create worlds, situations, and characters in our fantastical minds. This is such a talent but it is also one that sometimes needs to be challenged in the real world. Travel and exploring allow us to watch and reconnect with those real individuals who can make our stories so rich. Those people who are perhaps busking on the corner, or the server in the casino, for perhaps the housekeeper in your hotel. There are so many people who have deeply personal stories and to reconnect is a gift.
2. Exploring the world is also a reminder of who we’re writing for. There are as many different people in our vast world as there are stories and writers. We often forget how diverse the world is. Venturing out to different parts of the community, into nature, or diverse areas near and far is a good way to remind yourself of who we’re writing for.
3. Discovering new things is very invigorating. We went to two Mardi Gras parades (one was “adult” themed), strolled the French Quarter, and sang with a bunch of drunk strangers on Bourbon Street. The personalities and booze fed brazenness is unique to the area and added fodder to my files for future projects. Studying the people on the street who were simply there to have a good time was fascinating. With all inhibitions gone, it’s amazing (and a tad disgusting) what people will do for attention. Whether this meant baring their breasts, kissing their friend of the same sex, or chugging a sickly sweet alcohol-laden drink– it didn’t matter. I found myself intrigued with the character studies presented before me.
4. The world is diverse and waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s seeing a different type of foliage for the first time or studying how the local dress, your mind opens to so many possibilities. When was the last time you took a stroll down a residential neighborhood and studied the regional architecture? or the crumbling street infrastructure? or pay attention to how you feel when you’re walking there? Can you hear the history calling you? Perhaps a museum is in order. Did you know that some airports have rocking chairs? How cool is that? And, in the bathroom, there are signs and phones to allow someone to alert authorities if they’re being held against their will or trafficked? The world is fascinating and ours to discover and write about.
5. Travel can ramp up your understanding of the larger picture. Each of us has ideas already set in our psyche as to what we’ll find in strange and unknown places. Those biases can come through in our writing. If you can travel (even via YouTube) to listen to the unique dialects of speech, to see the vibrant colors of the local flowers, or experience the cuisine of another land then these can be added to your writings to make them fuller and more authentic. You owe it to yourself and your readers. With the internet, you can travel ‘virtually’ so there’s no reason not to and you may be surprised too what you’ll find by just strolling down the main street of your own town. Switch to writer-eyes and really see it as somewhere brand new. Enjoy.
So don’t sequester yourself ALL the time. Take a break and reacquaint with the world around you–whether it be near or far.
Pictures: 1.&2. Bourbon Street, New Orleans on a Saturday night. 3. Rocking chairs at the Spokane, WA airport. 4. Me and Darth Vader at the beginning of the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon. 5. Me half way through the race with two of New Orleans fine police officers. 6. Safe Space sign in ladies bathroom at Spokane International Airport (WA) 7. Endless bloody Mary with a crawfish on top. 8. Sign in a residential neighborhood during run. 9. Start line of the run–crowds…ugh. But so worth it in the end.