My whole life, I’ve been afraid of trying new things. Often I would choose to be alone at a birthday party instead of fighting my fear of heights to participate in the activities and other times, I skipped meals because however good the food in front of me might be, I just couldn’t bear the thought of putting it in my mouth.
When I started experimenting with writing, I realized two things: almost everything I wrote was boring and meaningless; and the few things that weren’t, were only worth reading because of my perspective on them. To me, it was clear what this meant. I needed to experience more, and my main motivation for doing so became writing about it afterward.
It’s kind of the way people say, “Think of the worst-case scenario, and then ask yourself if it’s something you could live with.” For instance, someone going on a first date could decide they are too nervous to follow through, and just blow it off. Now, let’s say this same person uses that worst-case scenario trick. In his mind, the worst thing that could possibly happen might be them saying something offensive during the date and the girl getting up to leave immediately. Everyone can agree that would suck.
But what happens after that? Maybe if she’s loud, a few people will turn their heads towards the guy with judgmental looks on their faces. He’ll pay whatever he has to pay before leaving, spending a few awkward moments by himself while the check arrives. Then he’ll leave, and it will end. His life won’t be over, and in fact, it might be better off because he will have learned an important lesson. So, with that knowledge in mind, he can now go on his date knowing that he will survive regardless of what might happen.
The same goes for me, only in my case, writing is always the knowledge I go in with. If I have a terrible date, I can go home afterward and write about it. If I decide to try something that could lead to a dangerous situation, like hot-boxing a car in Cancun, even if the cops arrive and we almost get thrown in jail, I can figure it all out and then once the dust has settled, write about it.
Let me make one thing clear, though.
I don’t go out and intentionally try to make these worst-case scenarios happen. I just know that if they do, I will always have writing to fall back on. I don’t set up dates just so that I can fail and then write about them. That’s twisted psychology. The only behavior I’m changing is that I’m not using safety and comfort as an excuse to avoid new experiences.
In some ways, it’s usually the other way around for writers. Take a lot of nonfiction books for example. Person A suffers through symptom B and then decides to write about it in order to help others who are in the same situation. The experience is what makes the writer. The opposite was true with me. Writing enabled me to start experiencing more. And experiences are what motivate me to write.
And if you look at writing through the lens of experience, it’s kind of hard to hit writer’s block. Even though that’s a term coined to help people feel better about not doing anything, there is some truth to it. However, if you feel you are out of ideas, just think back on your life and you will be sure to find something that you haven’t written about. It might be painful, or it might be hard to remember details, but that’s where creativity and resilience come in. Unless you’ve been documenting your entire life thus far, it’s literally impossible for you to not have experiences that you can write about, regardless of whether they make good stories or not.
Being a writer helps you put yourself out there more and deal with the emotions that this change in behavior might bring. I think that’s what life is really all about, and I wasn’t doing that prior to writing. So, in a sense, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I realized it would help me live my life better.