It’s kind of a given that writers write. It’s kind of the hallmark of the profession. Extraordinary writers, however, don’t just write, they lead extraordinary lives themselves!
Believe me when I say that doing other things with your life than just writing will, ironically, make you a better writer. Diversifying your activities opens up your mind to different experiences and other ways of thinking. Writing about a particular subject from the perspective of experience is vastly different from pulling stuff out of the internet or another book.
Think about Jack London and his adventure stories. We can spend hours analyzing his writing and ask ourselves… why are they so damn good? Is it the order of the words? Is it his deep understanding of human nature in extreme situations? Is it the small details that bring out the true fragrance of the story? The key to unlock the answers to these questions likely lies in that Jack London was a badass adventurer himself, something that carried over and infused into his work.
Did you know Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, was a whaler himself? Or that Hemingway penned For ‘Whom The Bell Tolls’ based on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War as a wartime reporter? The world of literature is awash with such examples. It’s a natural thing for us, as humans, to want to share our experiences with the world— heck, that’s why I write!
Most fiction is based on mirroring aspects of reality in order to induce readers into a fictive dream. A judicious amount of detail pulls the reader into the book and takes him on a journey. We get these details by exploring that wide world outside, by living and experiencing it.
Get hobbies, practice an adventure sport, fall in love, travel around the world, get into an interesting line of work, volunteer somewhere… in short, do everything you can other than shying away from life behind a computer screen. In the immortal words of Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
While you don’t necessarily need to become a pirate to write about pirates, surely a background with something maritime or sailing related will make your works that much richer, won’t it? Are you writing space fiction? Your characters are still subject to the pitfalls of human nature, which you understand by observing people.
In my own experience, I’ve found that traveling the world gets my creative juices flowing. While I’m on the road, I find myself in constant contact with other cultures and ways of life. Landscape after landscape imprints itself on my mind and sets it to work filling the land with stories. My mind races with the impressions of exotic lands and new experiences that take me out of my comfort zone. I oftentimes end up writing about these experiences afterwards, or use them as ideas for different stories.
Writing is as much a craft as cooking. In most dishes, it’s the little details such as spices which make the biggest difference in turning an ordinary dish into a delicacy. Likewise, in the writer’s kitchen, having diverse and interesting experiences will stock your writing spice rack with ideas, impressions, characters and other elements of real life that you can use to give your writing that extra edge.
Complementing your writing life with different work and activities will make you a more well-rounded writer, one with more experience, knowledge and understanding of the world and the people who live in it. This can definitely impact the quality of your writing in a positive way. Find what works for you and pursue inspiration!
So infuse your work with that expertise, that arcane gift of knowledge which is in your possession and which your readers need. Open up your world to them because, in the end, that’s the reason we read.