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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Bucket List: Good writing, good living

The beauty of being a Doer -- one wrong step from here and it's a steep and cactus-ridden 100-foot fall to the bottom.
Writing is a cerebral task. As writers, we get caught up in the adventures of our characters to the point that if someone asked us if we've ever been attacked by wolves, been in a sword fight or disarmed a bomb we might say yes without hesitation.

But then, how do our tales of awesomeness measure up when compared to the real deal? How much can Wikipedia research really inform us about what it's like to jump from the top of a building or kayak across an ocean?

Previously, I posted about how we can write what we don't know. But today, I'm taking the challenge one step further. Don't just write what you don't know. Do what you don't know.

If you know me outside of the world of computer screens (or, even, outside the realm of this particular blog) then you probably know that I am a Doer. Definitely a capital "D" kinda Doer, too. I'm the first person to say yes when you say, "Who wants to jump out of an airplane today?"*

That's because I believe that life is enriched by experience. And when your life is enriched, then your writing is enriched as well. Becoming better people, better writers and better livers** is about pushing our boundaries and finding new ways to expand our understanding and experience the world.

I am a person who lives in my head much of the time -- at work I'm on the computer. On the train, I'm reading. At home, I'm reading/writing/watching. So I love having the opportunity to break out of my head and actually do. This has led me to boxing, Bollywood dancing, flailing*** around an aerial acrobatics classroom, hiking some trails that probably weren't actually trails, acting in a one-woman show, attempting to re-become a ballerina, marching the sousaphone, racing through mud pits and vaulting 7-foot walls, kayaking with dolphins, learning cello ... and hopefully a lot more.

The thing about trying new things is that you have to be open to risk and failure. Luckily for me, I was raised to handle these things. Failure was just part of the deal in my family ... in a good way. See that photo below? I'm the 9-year-old on the left that has no idea that within the hour we're going to nearly capsize and I'm going to be chasing my grandparents down the level 5 rapids with only my 10-year-old sister and our tour guide to chase after them. In my family, this was called vacation.****

Spectacular failure is imminent.
Learning to try something new, fail, and still get back up and tell yourself, "Good job!" is not the least of the lessons that becoming a Doer will teach you. As a writer, it is one of the best. You will face rejection. You will receive form rejection letters from agents, you'll be told to re-write entire chunks of your work, you may need to scrap a piece completely and start over again. And that's okay. Add it to the list of things you've done. Then watch triumphantly as the list grows longer and longer, and know you're living a good life.

*Okay, maybe not jumping out of an airplane. I would do it, but that might actually take some building up to.
**Wait ... what? Not, like, the organ ... like ... live-ers. 
***Also read: Failing
****Other things that have qualified as vacation: helicopter crashes, dangling vehicles into the Grand Canyon, getting hit by tidal waves, being bit by a barracuda, being bit by a squirrel, riding a horse with extreme bowel problems, having your eyebrows burnt off, driving through tornadoes in the mountains, being hit by semi trucks, and ... maybe I should really reconsider that skydiving thing. 

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