Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, October 27, 2008

Write to live, but live to write

Many writers will tell you how important it is to GET OUT THERE and experience the world. Live life, try new things, see new places and have new experiences. It's all grist for the mill. All of the things we do in life helps us to be better writers and write about those experiences more realistically. As much as I throw myself into writing, one thing I try to do is also throw myself into life. Sure I'll beat myself up over missing a day of writing or working on a book, but sometimes, I'll purposefully put the brakes on the writing routine just because I want to stop writing and start living. Even when writers are not writing with our hands, we are writing with our minds. And this is what I was doing when I went on vacation last week. I was writing with my mind.

With everything that happened on my vacation, I got new ideas for scenes and characters and experienced how certain things felt. New attitudes, new emotions, new thoughts and new perspectives.

I also got new story ideas!

When we got lost in the mountains and my phone died right after I informed my sister, thus hurting my chances of getting directions, that became a story idea. The panic, fear and anxieties I felt were so real, something I would not have experienced otherwise. Also, when my husband got a better map from a business up there and told me the better map had roads on it that his map did not, that only added to my story idea.

When one of my sisters made a comment about one of the presidential candidates, that was a story idea.

When we were at this abandoned gas station and I saw a man walking around smiling, with a dog following behind him, and how he just hung out in front of the gas station store that wasn't even opened up yet, that was a story idea.

When I was in awe and breathless over the sight of Lake Shasta, that was a story idea.

When I saw an interesting name of a village, that was a story idea, too.

But I didn't just have story ideas resulting from this trip. I realized that the things that happen in life are like doors which open to writers, inviting them in to try new things, see new things and have new experiences. And all of these new experiences can help us write about them more realistically. The more we do in life, the more we have to write about. And the more we can add to the richness of the lives that we live.

I read a book on my way to and from California. It's called The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists by Andrew McAleer. It's a very good book! There's a quote by Hemingway in this book that goes: "Live it up so you can write it down." And if anyone knew a thing or two about living it up, it was Hemingway!

Sometimes, we NEED to pull ourselves away from our writing, as hard as that is, to get out there and live life. This is the only surefire way to write about life. Getting out there and living it. I know writing is important and that going without writing is like going without water to sustain ourselves. But, there are times, I think, when we just need to do this. We need to stop writing, start living. Start soaking in all of the experiences and goings-on around us. Take time to look, feel, touch, taste, listen and learn. Write about how these things make us feel. Be more in tuned with the thoughts and insights gleaned from these experiences. Keep tabs on how these experiences are so that these notes, recorded from the front lines, can be used in the writing. To put a new twist on an old saying, "Write to live, but live to write."

We will all be better writers for it.



  • At 1:47 PM , Blogger K. M. Walton said...

    You are so right. I got to see James Howe, author of the Bunnicula series and he keeps this tiny little notebook in his pocket at all times for writing moments. He actually pulled it out and read a few pages from it - snippets of conversation, observations on life, character ideas - he said, like you, that he listens to life and puts it in his writing.

  • At 11:16 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    It's a great habit. And that's so cool he shared those notes with you. That's as close as we can ever get to picking a writer's brain!


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