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Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Life Is the Best Writing Teacher

There are many answers to the question of how to become a better writer. A lot of people will say it requires reading and more reading, and that’s true. It also requires studying authors who inspire you. It requires writing horrible stories, countless thousands of words, until finally something kind of decent comes out, then something better, and finally something worth selling. But there’s another great teacher that’s absolutely free.

Life itself.

I know this sounds vague and, perhaps, overly mystical, but stop and think about it for a minute. While life will never teach us sound plot structure, all of us struggle, suffer tragedy, have known joyous moments, and have dealt with our own antagonists. There are real life examples of conflict and tension, which are essential ingredients to good storytelling.

Additionally, nothing else is a better teacher of sensory details and rich layers. If you step back from our electronics-drenched world--yes, I know that’s hard--and stop and let yourself experience the moment, you can learn to perceive and then incorporate into your stories incredibly unique and rich details.

For example, as I write this, if I stop to let myself really notice the world around me, I become aware of the mattress I’m sitting on, the lumpy springs and thin cover because it’s getting old, the slick keys of my keyboard, the soft whoosh of the heater, the scent of the aloe vera lotion I put on my hands just a little while ago, and the faint taste of the Snickers I snuck after dinner. I can feel the cold penetrating my sweater as it seeps in through the windows, the distant sound of my dog yapping in annoyance that he had to go outside, and the hum of car engines a few streets away.

There’s something about living in the moment and becoming aware of oneself and the surroundings that summons creativity and living. That sense of the now and that depth of descriptive abilities we can each tap helps give vigor to stories. So, in addition to reading, writing, and learning from fellow authors, let yourself experience your own life and, through it, improve your abilities as a writer.

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