Author and Writer's Digest Contributing Editor, Elizabeth Sims, wrote a fantastic blog post, "Wringing Direct Experience," as a reminder to get everything we can from a direct experience:
"So what’s the point of this post?
1) To be alive to the vastness of experience.
2) To go after it.
3) To improve your abilities to extrapolate and synthesize. This is the piece of greatest importance for writers."
She uses her experience witnessing the inaugural test flight of Elon Musk's/SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket to provide not a blow-by-blow of the event but instead her impressions of that day. Her notes bring not only color, texture, and vitality to this huge, public moment but they also manage to ground it, to make it personal and real.
As someone who struggles with anxiety and fear, I sometimes feel like I'm not getting out enough, not experiencing enough. I continue to try, to push, to challenge myself, but I still worry it impacts my writing. And, while it's true that it does to some extent, this post by Ms. Sims reminds me that creativity isn't necessarily about the big moments, the dramatic experiences. It's about paying attention. To everything.
"The point is, there’s so much waiting for you that you don’t expect. Space shots are extraordinary, and not everybody gets a chance to see one. But lots of other stuff happens that you can get out for and find way more than what’s front and center. City council meetings. Climb that hill, just for kicks. Ballgames. Prune that cherry tree. The movies. The lumpy blanket in the back seat. The sound of the cork popping, the cookie crumbling, the cows coming home. The look on that woman’s face when her boyfriend whispers to her....
1) Say yes.
2) Write bits of it down.
3) Draw it. Try.
4) Say yes again.
5) And again.
6) Take everything with you as you set to work."
Time to pull out that new notebook - the one I bought at the beginning of the year and have yet to write in - and get to wringing and recording those moments, no matter how small, in the hopes my writing will deepen and grow, and my stories may even, in their own way, loom large on the page.
Are you good at paying attention to the smaller things? Do you record them somewhere, somehow? If you struggle with anxiety, do you ever worry it hinders your art, your creativity, your writing?