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Step away from your desk and fuel your writing life

It’s easy as writers to hole up in our writing caves. We’re busy operating under the influence of words and we don’t want to be interrupted.

But sometimes you have to get out into the world. It’s how you pick up telling details that add more authenticity and authority to your work. And then there are the times when you’re stuck. Stepping out just may spark an idea or epiphany.

Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy),wrote on her website about the act of trying to make conversation with a “living human” after a day of writing. She writes that if she could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, it would be this:

“Say yes.” The world is asking you to try new things, have fresh experiences, meet people, see foreign places, and learn things. Most of the time we say no. Say yes. Go for it. Try. Live. Dream. Refuse to be negative. Be generous with your own time and gifts. See what happens then.

Changing your routine routine can reveal unexpected insights.

Recently I was on a vacation visiting family. At the end of one day spent with a few elderly relatives, I looked at my sister and said, “I’m going to have to write about this in my journal tonight.”

Part of the day was spent at my aunt’s retirement center. In the dining room, I watched as one elderly man rose from his table and began to push his walker down towards the hall. Bent over and frail, he pushed a few steps and then stopped. Then pushed and stopped. Pushed. Stopped. I was so struck by his struggle I lost my breath for a moment and knew at some point he would inspire a character or detail in a story.

After dinner, we rode the elevator up to my aunt’s floor. The doors opened and a couple, each with walkers, stood stock still in front of the elevator, staring straight ahead. They each were neatly dressed in pressed pants and pale green shirts. The man’s had a faint Hawaiian design. They didn’t say a word, just focused on what they were going to do next as we stepped out of the elevator so they could enter.

That retirement home was a world unto itself with all its own little dramas.

Going out in the world is a good opportunity to practice observational skills. Watch how people move, note their body language, listen to the tone of their voices, eavesdrop on dialogue.

What have you seen this week that might find its way into a story or scene?

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