Looking over my blog today, the date on my last post tells me that I have not posted in a little over a month. Yes, a month. Pretty sure I haven’t done that one yet. While I do not like to take long breaks (I much prefer to be prepared—don’t we all?), it just happens to go perfectly with my post today. Because I was doing exactly what I’m about to talk about.
I was living life.
Writers have this reputation for sitting cooped up for hours behind locked doors, writing in solitude, shutting out the world. While we are fast changing this, writing still takes a lot of time, often off where we are free from distraction, alone with our steaming tea, our playlists, and our comfy socks. There is nothing wrong with getting away to maximize our writing time (I attempt to do this and usually fail), but we must be careful not to exclude, in our writing lives, the very key element of living.
I did Camp NaNoWriMo, a 30k blip on the screen of my writing life, but that is not what I’m going to remember from this month, nor am I going into August exhausted or burned out. In fact, I feel energized and ready to take on writing as if I had had a vacation.
This month I walked on the decks of historical tall ships for research (many of them having recently sailed across the Atlantic), worked on house projects with my Dad, took my youngest siblings out for ice cream, and ate authentic Yemeni food. I played soccer and duck-duck-goose with little children who couldn’t even speak my language, basketball with some of the best players I know (and I know roughly half the rules), and wrote a tear-jerking scene in a bumpy van full of teens singing silly songs. I built relationships with people I didn’t know very well at the beginning of the month, I went outside my comfort zone again and again, I learned new things.
This, in my opinion, is the best thing a writer can do for themselves. When you have authentic relationships, when you see life in a different culture, when you push yourself beyond your usual level of comfort, you build an authenticity in your writing that cannot be faked.
Writing should not be a segregated thing—this part of my life is for writing, and this is for the rest of it—but rather live first, and the writing will follow. Use your frustrations, your anticipations, your laughter, and your longings of everyday life to color your writing. The experience of life shows—people can tell the difference.
So don’t just run through life. Stop to savor your food; don’t forget the joy of wind on your face, or the excitement of something so little as a new book. Don’t forget the beauty of a smile.