Writers are some of the most curious people I know; you’d have to be to feed the drive to fashion worlds and stitch out entire lives. Curiosity forces you into the borderlands of your experience and imagination. And the borderlands are where you make your discoveries. Where you meet someone who wants something you’d never think to want, or see a sight that should be counted as the least-talked-about-natural-wonder-of-the-world. Where you come across a piece of writing that makes you think, “Of course, humans invented writing. We had to.”
When I’m on a roll, it can be hard to think about anything else but my novel. Honestly, some of the time, that does translate into choosing to stay in when everyone goes out. “Beach camping? That’s cool, man. Save me a s’more. Dig a moat around your tent to keep the sand rats away.” (That last is actual advice given by a guide in Costa Rica. Truly terrible.)
But the more I talk to writers, the more I realize that we often end up exploring so much more when we’re writing. Not that I’m base-jumping, or hopping on a seaplane out to Rapa Nui when I’ve got a novel brewing. But I do pursue conversations I wouldn’t normally think to have with old college buddies who are now opera singers, or read books and articles about a staged assassination in Guatemala, or finally get out kayaking in the bay to figure out the exact sharpness of the gasp in your chest when you slap through a spray of water (that last one sounds cooler than it was. Really, my most vivid memory is the discomfort of constant wet butt. Tasteful. Color!).
As I sat down to write my novel this weekend, there was a moment on Saturday night when I was pretty dissatisfied with what I’d written so far. I forgot what had drawn me to this story in the first place. So I went to my default, always-productive answer to writer’s block: I decided to tool around on the internet, and came across this post on Reddit.
The first comment in that thread was from someone who had served with the poster’s brother in Afghanistan. He reminisced about coming up in the ranks together, about the poster’s brother’s initial struggle with earning the respect of his men, and how that made him a better leader. He posted pictures, and said what he’d want to say if and when he ever made it out to the grave.
The internet is big, and the world is cold, but know that somehow many of us are more connected than we realize. For me, your brother was also my brother, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.
There is great writing everywhere. People can be so kind. We live in an inspiring world.
What’s inspiring you?