That which doesn’t kill us makes great source material

We’re all the sum of our experiences, and the people we’ve met.

As I round the corner toward sixty next week, let’s just say that I’ve amassed quite a tidy sum.

And that’s just what I can remember. I’ve misplaced or forgotten more than I’ll ever be able to translate into a book, or books.

It’s also true that not every experience is worth writing about.

Mug Shots
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When I pick a topic, as I did with my grandfather’s World War I diary that I turned into a script (details in the sidebar), I had to do a lot more research about World War I. I learned things that I simply didn’t learn in school. About how the war came about, about how the United States finally decided to get involved, and more. In the end, I had too much source material and had to do a lot of editing.

The script was a labor of love. Not all of the things I’m writing are. So, sometimes, I’m not all that motivated to do research.

Writing is hard.

As the experts tell you, a writer needs to read as much as write. So, I do that. And perhaps that’s research in a way. After all, I’m learning the writing styles and word choices of other authors.

Currently I’m reading four different books. One is an audio book for drive time and treadmill time. Two others are in my messenger bag and one is in the…um…library.

I know that reading more will make me a better writer.

Still, I have a tendency to write from the things I know. Which means I may never write a book where one might assume I’m an expert.

I just finished listening to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (via Librivox.org. I’d never read it before. The book is fascinating, if for no other reason than his vast, complex descriptions of underwater life. And Verne was not a marine biologist. It’s obvious that he did more than a little research of his own since I’m pretty sure his descriptions of all those underwater creatures weren’t from first-hand observation.

Verne wrote for audiences that were pre-television, pre-internet, even pre-radio. so, the details he provided were necessary and probably welcomed.

I’ll never write like Verne, and I’m not trying to. But, if reading his work helps me to better understand language, and description, it’s worth my time.

In fact, I’ve moved on to Journey to the Center of the Earth.

To a writer, just about everything can be source material. I’ve often commented about wanting to write about my time living and working in Washington, DC.

While I’m not inclined to write a memoir, I’ve also realized I’ve got stories I can tell from my time working on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico…and a host of other experiences.

To a writer, life is source material.

I have to keep reminding myself when I think I have nothing to write about.

There’s always something.

My job is to find and write about that something with the hopes that someone else will want to read it.

The work continues.


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