Before you can write, you have to live.
I found this point in the strangest place; a children’s book. I didn’t expect it there. Why were they teaching the kid about being a writer? I think the message was being yourself instead of trying to be someone else or imagining what you could be, yet they used the example of becoming a writer to send their message! And the mentor’s advice to the child who was seeking their superhero (and was convinced the teacher was the superhero in disguise) was that he didn’t need to be the sidekick, he could be the superhero, but if he wanted to be an author, he had to go out and live first.
So the kid does, and you see him snowboarding down a mountain, jumping from helicopters, and more!
While I didn’t need anyone to convince me to be myself (my last blog was about that!), the advice still hit home. You have to live a life to be able to write about one, and it’s far more than just getting older.
You’ve got to be observant too! If you go somewhere and just take pictures of it, or you walk through the venue with your eyes on the floor, you’ll not get the advantage I’m talking about. You have to have your eyes up, and your head turned on. Look and see!
I traveled a lot in my youth, and I see how it impacts my writing all the time. When I wrote about a rocky mountainscape in the book “Esparan,” I was picturing the Craggs outside of Edinburgh in Scotland, that black rock with a sheer drop, vertical lines of stones jutting up from the grass. Writing Lance’s start in WaterBranch was inspired by a trip to Tofino for the weather, but the houses with their colored doors and the boats out front were my trip to Newfoundland. The village of Vait in “Dragon’s Voice” was inspired by where I had a homestay in Romania. All of my ‘mean fairies’ novels (title to be determined) came from hiking the Pentlands in Scotland.
That is why you have to live! I can see these places in my mind because I’ve been there. I know the details of the site because I had my head up.
And you have to try! Eat new foods, learn new cultures, and meet new people! I have characters based on people from the bus stop to high school friends. I chose the breed of a dog in a short story I wrote because I met that dog in real life (that and it immediately clicked that a poodle made sense for a job in space!).
I won’t say research is useless because it truly isn’t! Take it from me; my great-grandfather is famous in our family for writing a tour guidebook about Japan without ever visiting the country! And it’s still in print! But research answers the questions you ask. Experience answers questions you didn’t know you even had.
So after sore feet, a few mosquito bites, and a misadventure around a forest fire, I’ve got more fodder for my stories because of a hike into Strathcona Park and up to Della Falls. The next time I write about traveling in the alpine area or trying to navigate trails when there’s snow, I have experience to draw on. I know the smell of the freshly-sprouting ground in the cold air that burns off in the sun, the look of the tangled mass of branches and crushed leaves exposed by the departure of the snow, and how the trees suffer and fall under the pressure of their burden. I also know the awe of looking down on a frozen lake from above. It’s all worth it!
To write, you have to live first.
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D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.