Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Collecting Redux

I wrote about Collecting as Fertilizer a couple days ago, the idea being that collecting is the antidote for facing a blank page.  In that post, I focused mainly on the benefits of keeping a writer's journal and noting descriptions, dialogue, or anything you might want to later remember or expound on.

But there are other types of collecting that are important for writers, also, collecting experiences and collecting people. 

Collecting Experience

It has often been noted that college-age students in creative writing classes produce vapid prose (no offense if anyone reading this is a college-age student, I love ya, really, I'm just sayin').   Why is this?  It is because college-age students are desperately young and lacking in experience.  As writers, we need to experience the world for a bit before we have something to say about it.  Which gives you an excellent excuse to get up from your writing desk, right now, and go do something.  Go collect an experience then come home and write about.  Ride a hot air balloon, visit the state fair, ride the bus downtown and back.  You can come up with way more interesting stuff than that.  But whatever you come up with, follow through on it.  We writers tend to be pasty and hunched over from spending too much time at the desk so go forth and live a little.

Collecting People

Along the same lines, we writers also tend to spend many hours alone.  This is a good thing.  A writer needs solitude in which to create.  I have friends and family members who are artists and they can create and talk to me on the phone at the same time, but I have to be able to concentrate on the words.  So solitude is important, yes.  But if you spend your entire life alone, you'll never understand other people.  And if you don't understand other people, than you can't write.  That sounds harsh, but it is true, because I don't care if you are writing a novel, or an essay, or a memoir, it all starts with people.  As people, we are interested in other people.  Just like dogs (except for mine) are interested in other dogs.  And cats are…oh never mind, cats are interested in anything, except maybe tormenting mice and birds.  Go out and talk to people and see what makes them tick.  It does not behoove you as a writer to be shy.

Understanding the World

That's your charge as a writer–understanding the world.  Or, more to the point, understanding your world and the people in it and then bringing everyone else back reports from the front.    What we as readers desire is to see the world through another person's eyes.   We're stuck with ourselves and our own viewpoint for the entire lifetime, and it is through art that we get a glimpse of other people's viewpoints.

So, be a collector.  Your writing will be better for it.

4 thoughts on “Collecting Redux

  1. Cassy

    I very much appreciate what you’ve said about collecting experiences and people. I often hole up in my corner here, thinking, writing – forgetting to get out and observe. Thank you for the push.

  2. Beth

    Great thought about “collecting people”. With people, we’d never get our thoughts together to be able to write anything of depth. But without them, we’d never have story.

  3. Mo

    Beth, Collecting experiences and people – aren’t these what make all authors great?

  4. Charlotte

    For me, its all about the balance. I love being alone but I also love being with people. When I spend too much time in either direction, I start to feel really unbalanced. And I probably have more of a tolerance for being alone than many. I think all writers do.

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