As a writer, I'm often trying to convey things -- events, situations, emotions -- that I've never experienced personally, and there's nothing unusual about that. I've never had to fight for my life with a sword. I've never stepped outside a spaceship in just a plastic suit. Because human emotions are the same for us all, I believe I can apply the few moments of genuine panic (when I realized I was skidding down an icy mountainside at 50mph) or awe (when I stood inside the gallery of the Great Pyramid) that I actually have experienced to what my characters are experiencing.
The tougher part is knowing which emotions fit the scenario and how they're flavored by the character's exact situation. Also, whether anything I've experienced truly fits.
I've been a shy person all my life. That's not unusual for a writer. I've been a homebody, but not a complete shut-in, who took a pass on having a crazy youth or doing anything too risky. But over the past year, I've been getting out more and putting the shyness, the worries, everything that's kept me from being wilder, aside.
|Get out there. It's worth it.|
What you notice in the midst of those experiences, what stands out to you, is as individual as your fingerprints and that will only add to your personal voice as a writer when you apply it to a story. As writers, everyone we meet and everything we experience goes into our stories. Shutting ourselves away will limit our supply of those raw ingredients, in the long run.
So, my fellow shy, reclusive writers, I'm going to say get out there and do something this summer that pushes your personal envelope. Something new. Something that leaves you exhilarated, exhausted, and possibly ecstatic.
I experienced all of those on a whole new level when the Mothership 2014 tour came to town. Now, I love electronic music and I've mentioned before how I've been going out to hear it in small clubs. A six-hour dubstep festival on the lawn of a racetrack was something else entirely, of course. I had never been brave enough to go to one of those before, let alone work my way down to front and center in the crowd where it's all drunken college boys, crowd-surfers, and constant bouncing.
Scary? A little. I'm not small or fragile, though. What I took away was a new understanding of exhaustion. Of the role of sensory overload in inducing a trancelike state. Of the dynamics of a close-packed crowd of people jacked up on adrenaline and various intoxicants.
Was I really thinking that clearly at the time? No, but I've put in the analysis time since then. The memories will be useful in a variety of crowd-based situations and individual experiences of transcendence -- exhaustion and extreme situations can give rise to powerful religious experiences and also the sorts of extreme survival stories that come out of war or natural disasters.
I also briefly met a handful of colorful characters, needless to say. It's all good story ingredients, well worth the money, the time, and the emotional risk of going into such a thing trusting the universe to give me what I need. This was an instance of going out to find that, as I talked about in this post.
Get out there. Climb a mountain, take fencing lessons, go skinny dipping at midnight, whatever it is you've always wanted to do. What unusual things have you experienced recently?
If you're curious, I've found some videos from the concert I attended that do a fair job of conveying the experience when the headliner, Skrillex, took the stage five hours into the festival. You do have to imagine the bass pounding on you like you need CPR, though. iPhones completely fail to capture that.
Opening of Skrillex's set. First big drop is 2 minutes in. He gave us that long to catch our breath after Dillon Francis, lol. Another 18 minutes of the set. Jump to 12:15 for an especially potent buildup and explosion.