|Photo credit: Kansas Poetry (Patrick) on Flickr|
I’d been told more than once through my childhood years that I should be a writer, but even as I started to embrace the idea, no one explained to me what it really meant. Because as any writer knows, being a writer is more than just pumping out a poem, story or novel every once in a while.
When you’re a writer, you’re consumed by your passion. There isn’t an on-off switch. Writers don’t sit down and say, “Ok! Time to be a writer now!” then switch it off when it’s convenient. A writer is always taking mental notes for their current or upcoming work. When doing the dishes, driving, doing homework or going out with friends, a writer is watching, listening and feeling the world around them. On a day soaked with fresh rain, a writer closes her eyes and smells the air.
A writer always asks how would I describe this? Always.
You see, sitting down to write is only part of the job. A writer who doesn’t pay attention to the world surrounding them is missing out on a huge opportunity. I cannot stress this enough. This is HUGE.
Just think: How can your character describe the residual sting of a burn if you, the writer, have never been burned? How will your reader feel the chill of a winter storm if you, the author has never sat outside in January?
Last time I accidentally touched the side of the oven, as I ran my hand under cold water I closed my eyes and tried to come up with words to describe it. I’m not a masochist. I’m just a writer, and that’s what writers do.
I’m not saying if you’re a writer you have to experience absolutely everything your characters do—in fact if your characters are as tortured and punished as mine, I sincerely pray that you don’t. And I’m also not saying that when you get hurt you should sit there and describe how it feels instead of getting medical attention. (Please, please, please get medical attention immediately!)
What I am saying is the purest moments in your manuscript happen when you reach past imagination and make the moment real. When you pull that perfect detail from your experiences, that’s when the reader will sit back and say, “That’s what it feels like.”
When you’re a writer, your job is never over. A writer lives and breathes and feels everything around them until they find the right words for their work.
Then they sit down and relive them on paper.
Food for thought: What else is part of the 24/7 job of a writer?