Thursday, December 17, 2015

Direct Experience

Zestful Blog Post #137

Here’s a blog post by new friend Alan Spector, who got inspired by one of my recent Writer’s Digest articles (on making a new commitment to your writing). He believes getting out of your comfort zone and going for something special is important for retirees too. Yeah! Here’s also a link to a historical novel he’s written and published.

What’s stepping out of your comfort zone really about? Two things: One, it’s about keeping your comfort zone comfortable. Think about easing into your nice soft sleeping bag after a hard day of mountain hiking. Ah, bliss. Now think about lying in your sleeping bag for days on end. Comfort evaporates. Muscles atrophy. Only by periodically leaving that comfort can you maintain that comfort. Paradox, yeah. Zen, yeah.

The other thing: leaving your comfort zone is the only way you can gain new direct experience. Who has a stake in this? I remember arguing with one of my grad school professors about sleeping out under the stars. The question was, do you need to experience something in order to fully appreciate it? She, who had never spent a night in the open, contended that you can read a book about being outdoors in the woods and have as much feeling for the natural world as if you’d actually experienced it firsthand. I, who had slept on mountainsides without shelter, contended the opposite. And you can only know the difference if you’ve gone out and done the experience, whatever it is, dammit. It’s great to love books, and books can bring the outer world alive, but only to a point.

It’s essential for the writers of books to go out and gain direct experience, so they can write about it convincingly—so the experience can inform their work. This is true even for writers of sci-fi and fantasy. I think I’d like to explain and dig deeper into that soon.

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  1. I agree! I think that is why the older writer brings so much more to their writing. I just takes some years and some living to get that "experience".

  2. Can't wait to hear what you have to say about SFF!

  3. Yes, life experience counts. And Cordia, I'll have something, all right... Thanks for looking in.

  4. Since we are each different, we experience the night under the stars differently. Some see beauty. Some feel bug bights. Some watch for rain. This makes the experience comic or sad, fulfilling or terrifying. If a human is involved, a starry night can have many outcomes.

  5. Gosh, absolutely, Patricia! Thanks for joining us in the comment zone.


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