How Do You See?

I’ve got two entries for the coming week in the bag already, but I still need to get a third done for Friday (err…today, when you’re actually reading this). I finish this right now and I’ll have the rest of the weekend to do some aggressive napping! Yeehaw!!

I want to put something out there about vision and breadth of experience/knowledge. Oh, not the, “I’ve been around the world in a canoe” kind of experience, but the experience of doing…well…other things. Creative things.

I’ve been asked by a few people how to work on their writing (like I don’t have to work my own!). My answer always surprises them: go paint. Or play the guitar. Or take up knitting. Do something that uses your brain in different ways.

Keep in mind that you do have to practice writing. Oh yes, very much yes, do you have to practice writing. And you have to read, voraciously. Learn how other people craft their thoughts and ideas into sentences and stories. Whether what you read works or fails, you can learn something from it.

But if writing is really a part of you, and not just some way to dodge real work*, then you’re already doing both of those things every chance you get. If you’re not reading and writing every chance you get, then…umm, no one can help you.

*I’m all for dodging work in any way you can, by the way.

What I’m talking about is learning to see the world differently. I like visual mediums for this, but to be honest any form of creative expression can fit the bill. I’ve mentioned before that I do photography. Learning to take pictures – more importantly, learning to see and compose subjects that make good pictures – has very much taught me to look at the world differently.

I’ve been told that my writing comes across as very visual, and I firmly believe that I owe a great deal of that to learning to look at the world through the lens of a camera. Colors and composition, and especially the contrast of light and shadow, are far more apparent and important to me now than ever they were when I “just” wrote.

Of course, experience of the world helps, too. Can a fifteen year old who has never left home write some good shit? Absolutely, yes. Unquestionably, yes. But take that same kid and let him or her see Rome, London, Tokyo, Krakow… How much more ammunition does that kid have to work with?

I’m privileged enough to have seen some of the best – and some of the worst – this world has to offer, and it has done more for my ability to envision things than all the years I spent at university. Taught me more about good booze, too: you haven’t lived until you’ve jumped into the deepest end of the beer pool in Germany and Czech. Or had real absinthe. Or tried to stumble “home” through a maze of medieval neighborhoods after trying to outdrink a bunch of locals. Or…shit, I could go on for a long time with the examples.

Dammit, another squirrel-moment. Nope, back on track! Focus, focus focus!

The point of this post is to get people (writers, really) thinking about more than just words on a page. It’s a big world out there, and you really need to learn to see it in different ways.

Do shit…go places…and create your own perspective. That individuality, that unique and personal “lens”, will do more for you as a writer than every single writing class on the planet.

Oh…and read and write*. Constantly.

*One of these weeks I may have to do a post on different “kinds” of writing…not style or subject, but tools. There is a time and place to type, and a time and place to use pen and paper. Picking the right method can be huge…

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