I’ve blogged before about the benefits to writers of leaving the car behind and walking through the countryside. It gives time for contemplation and thinking, both something of a luxury in the modern world. I would now like to extend that to anything that changes the pace of your life. As writers we spend a considerable amount of time in self-imposed solitary confinement, as I am now, writing this blog. And as such I’m relying on my memory and imagination to conjure the images I then try to render into words. But to do that we need to feed those memories and that imagination with rich and varied experiences. That doesn’t mean you have to climb mountains or dive the oceans (although I can see how that might inspire). For me it means getting out there and observing and listening.
The first weekend in October I spent three days with fifteen friends, all blokes (now of a certain age) on two narrow boats on a canal. We’ve done it just about every year for 20 years, not on the same canal I would add. I always look forward to it, for the companionship, the laughs and yes the odd beer with a group of people I know well. Also, it’s the whole experience, that change of pace, the variation from the norm. During the day its gentle travel through often beautiful countryside and sometimes through more urban landscapes. Both in their own way provide interesting observations, the wonder of nature in autumn colours or the remnants of an industrial history now largely in the past. Although the countryside is more pleasing, in many ways as a writer the industrial settings are what sets the imagination ticking, the outlines of signs long removed and the ghosts of lives that no longer exist.
Then there is the rich and varied conversations with my fellow travellers usually sprinkled with a good amount of humour, always a source of ideas for stories or characters. Sometimes I will find myself letting the talk go on a round me. As a writer I’m observing the ebb and flow, how people speak, the use of language the gestures and expressions as well as how the subject matter seamlessly changes.
Finally there’s the added bonus of finding myself walking through a town on a Friday and Saturday evening, a world I rarely enter these days, as we head for the pubs and restaurants. The conversations become more animated as a few drinks are consumed. The voices are raised to compete in the noisy environment and the humour and laughter levels increase. Later I’m in a pub with live music enjoying the entertainment not only of the musicians but also of my fellow listeners. Those ignoring it and trying to carry on with normal conversations, those listening in a corner and those at the front who are really getting into the whole experience, aided in no small part by the drink they’ve consumed. And then there’s the often loud, repeated and sometimes nonsensical conversation of those who have been drinking for a few hours.
As I’m sure you can tell I enjoy these weekends. Not only because it’s a chance to have a few days away with good friends but also because they take me into different worlds than the one I normally inhabit. Times like these (as with all holidays) provide me with an in valuable store of experiences that then find their way into my stories.
So the bottom line? I suppose it’s get out there and enjoy different experiences and while you are enjoying them keep the part of your brain that’s the writer switched on and observing. Oh, and don’t forget to take some photographs while you’re out there – they can be useful as well.
As always comments and ideas are welcome