Every writer knows they need life experiences to write their stories. You never write a story completely from imagination. For example, consider the story of a squirrel who has an adventure in an abandoned building. You know what a squirrel looks like and have probably watched one or more at some time. You know what an abandoned building looks like because you’ve been in buildings. The story will be a combination of life experience and imagination.
Everything we write is based on life experience plus imagination. Even non-fiction works this way. We learned the subject before writing about it and we make what we write our own through our experiences with it and our imaginations. We write fiction based on our relationships, our work, our education, and our adventures.
We don’t need to have had every experience we put into our fiction. If we’ve worked in one trade, we know how all the trades work. If we can cook our own breakfast, we can write from the perspective of a cook. If we mowed lawns one summer, we understand what a person in a lawn care job does. Education is similar. Get a degree in one liberal art and you understand all liberal arts. Get a degree in one science and you understand all the sciences. Have enough relationships and you can understand what others are talking about when their relationship are going well or bad or weird. That goes into your fiction too. Where am I going with this?
How to Feed Your Imagination
Part of your life experience is drawn from reading books and studying subjects that would either be bad life experiences or cost too much to do. We don’t read in order to write the same material we just read. We want to see how other writers do it. Was it entertaining? Why? Why not? What did we like about that story? We’ll use it in our writing. What didn’t we like? We’ll avoid that.
Vicarious life experience through the creative works of others has always been approved by writers as a good way to build up your imagination. Reading is effective because we must use our imaginations to see the story. When you read a good variety of books, especially if you step outside your genre comfort zone, your imagination becomes stronger.
A recent study suggests that movies may not be beneficial. Lots of movies, that is. Or TV every night. But who has time for TV every night when they’re writing. TV could be a terrible way to take a break from writing because it can destroy your imagination. What’s all this then?
Visually interesting material can destroy your imagining ability because it imagines everything for you. This is an argument from analogy, so feel free to disagree. It has been found that internet porn video addiction leads to erectile dysfunction in young men. This happens because they don’t need to use their imagination for arousal. A naked woman isn’t enough to turn them on any more. They don’t imagine what they might do with her because videos have been doing their imagining for them. Over time, they completely lose the ability to imagine sex. There is a cure. About one year without watching internet porn and they return to normal.
By analogy, movie addiction, non porn, will lead to imagination dysfunction too. TV is also an imagination killer. We don’t need to imagine the story. It’s right there happening now. Just as pictures of nude women haven’t been found to cause the same death of imagination, reading books doesn’t kill the imagination either. We can still enjoy just as many stories as always and books are a better value than movies anyway. A movie is two hours entertainment. A book is at least four hours of entertainment.
I’m sure you won’t abandon movies and TV. A bit of each doesn’t cause any harm. Just keeping your reading ahead of your viewing and your imagination will stay strong. Read many authors and it will grow stronger.
Then write to exercise that imagination.
Article by Ivan Izo.