Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Order to Write, Writers Have to Live


When you're in the throes of writing a novel, it's tempting to block life out. It's time-consuming, you're often lost in your own head, and you're trying to live out your dream. But it doesn't work to withdraw from life.

As part of Camp NaNoWriMo I wrote a guest post about the importance of living to the writer. Not least of which because you need to learn from real life, but also because you have to keep cultivating the relationships that give life meaning.

The Value of Life Experience

Art: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir






15 comments:

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I liked your post, especially because a lot of writers base their stories on real-life experiences. The challenge, though, is making time writing and everything else in my life; that's something I'm still figuring out.

Elizabeth Prats said...

If we don't live--what can we write about? Experiences shape our writing, whether we're writing contemporary, historical or sci-fi and fantasy. There is a seed--a viewpoint that life experiences give us and they shape our writing.

I so agree with this. So any wild nights are just research. At least, that's what I tell my mother. LOL

abc said...

And wouldn't it be nice to do a lot of living as paid research for one's writing? I'm pretty sure I need an extended trip to the Northwest for my next novel to seem realistic. I shall drink good beer and take walks through lovely forests of giant trees!

Simon said...

I think it's worth mentioning that everyone's definition of "living" is different. By some standards, Emily Dickinson didn't have much of a life, but she seems to have felt just about every emotion I've ever had, and I haven't been living in one room. There's no such thing as having a non-experience.

Christine Monson said...

When I read your post of the board at camp, I thought to myself--Duh! How can writers write without experience? Life gives writers their own material to draw off of and create from.

I didn't even feel bad for taking off the first week of CampNaNoWriMo to go hiking. Fresh air, exercise, and wildlife does wonders for a writer's psyche.

By the way, I passed my goal yesterday and am still trudging forward! :)

Tessa Conte said...

Yep, definitely, life gives you things to write about. But it's also important how you see life, yours or someone elses (real or imagined) - living is important in that it gives us a range of emotions, experiences, memories to fall back on. BUT I don't agree with the strict view of write what you know. There are many writers out there who write brilliantly about things they have not, in fact, lived through or experienced. It's the ability to slip into someone else's skin that's vital for a writer, I think.

J Keith said...

So very true - life experience makes writing so much richer

Anonymous said...

I've seen things like this for years and I do agree. However, this isn't as simple as it sounds. In other words, each experience in life you pick up along the way changes you in a different way...in some cases where you'll never be the same again. And it's a conglomeration of these experiences that creates the overall life experience. It's not about going out and forcing it to happen. I've seen a lot of people who think they can do this. They say things like "I'm gaining life experience." But you can't force life experience. Life experience happens to you, you don't happen to it.

Anonymous said...

@Annon, I think that is true, but Nathan is giving us a gentle reminder that being "obsessed" with writing a good book and having general famosity is the same sin as watching your life go by.

Sure, you can't force life to happen. But by being over-obsessed with your craft, you are no better than the parent who only sees their child every so often because they've put other priorities like work first. Life is more important than writing; that is the moral of the story, I think.

Stoich91 said...

@Annon, I think that is true, but Nathan is giving us a gentle reminder that being "obsessed" with writing a good book and having general famosity is the same sin as watching your life go by.

Sure, you can't force life to happen. But by being over-obsessed with your craft, you are no better than the parent who only sees their child every so often because they've put other priorities like work first. Life is more important than writing; that is the moral of the story, I think.

thewriteedge said...

Thanks for the reminder, Nathan. We get so wrapped up in the words inside of us that we forget that we're writing about the world outside.

Also, I LOVE Renoir! He's my favorite artist.

mlmarshall.com said...

Great post, and very true to an extent.

There will need to be a time when sacrifices have to be made in order to reach your goal. For example, sometimes I find myself writing on a Friday night, when all my friends are out partying hard. But I feel better on Saturday morning for having stepped closer to my goal.

Then there are evenings where my girlfriend complains that I'm not paying her enough attention, so I close the laptop and curl up on the sofa with her.

I guess it's all about cultivating the different areas of your life equally. Finding equilibrium. Not. Neglecting life whilst also not giving up on your dreams.


But anyone who has a achieved extraordinary things, had to adopt exta-ordinary measures.

M.R. Merrick said...

That was a great post, Nathan. As an author, sometimes you get so caught up in meeting deadlines, or even online networking, that you let real life fade to the back. This really does cause problems with relationships, and as far as writing is concerned, can seriously hinder your capabilities. Experience imparts on us new channels to fuse our imaginations with. Sometimes, time outside of our electronic bubbles can be just what our stories need.

Joanna said...

Absolutely. If you are spending so much time glued to the keyboard that you stop cooking for your family, seeing friends, exercising, and all that good stuff, the folks will stop seeking you out. You'll become one dimensional and so will your work. My characters are composites of all the people I've ever met and the scenarios are drawn from all my cool (and not-at-all cool) experiences. Life's a trip, don't miss out on the best parts - they happen in real time

B.C. Brown said...

Writers are really tightrope walkers. There is the fine line between being dedicated to your productivity but living the events that inspire/influence your work.

I agreed with your board at Camp. I've been guilty of burying my head in the sand as a writer for the sake of productivity. REcently I've learned that life makes work so much richer.

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