March 18, 2013

Guest Post: Author Laura Oliva on Living For Research! #writetip #AllThatGlitters

Today's guest post by Author Laura Oliva!!
 Living For Research

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” -Henry David Thoreau 

A while back on my blog, I wrote a post on "writing what you know." I touched on the concept of taking your everyday experiences and using them as a jumping-off point for your imagination.

Writing that post got me thinking. As writers, we often spend a good portion of our lives in front of a computer (or notepad, or typewriter if you're really old-school). We create entire worlds in our heads, occasionally at the expense of living in this one. This is just par for the course.

Sometimes, though, it is beneficial--no, necessary--to carve out some time away from the keyboard. Not just for the mundane aspects of living--grocery shopping, laundry, eating--but for some actual, bona fide adventure. We're writers, after all! If you choose to follow the adage "write what you know," then how are we supposed to write about a world we never see or experience?

I've long embraced the probability that I have gypsy blood in my veins. I love to travel, especially to places I've never been before. I love trying new things, and meeting new people. I love getting lost. It always surprises me how many people never take the time to explore the world beyond their own little cocoon.

In the name of public service, I've taken it upon myself to help out. Below is a short list of ways to inject some adventure into your life. So get your butt out of that office chair (it doesn't have any lumbar support, anyway). Don't bring a notebook. I know that sounds sacrilegious, but the idea is to be in the moment, not in your own head.

Trust me.

1) Go someplace near where you live where you've never gone before. I started doing this recently, and was amazed how many towns I've never visited, restaurants I've never tried, roads I've never taken. If you're at a loss, get your hands on a tourist guide to your area (hotels usually have them free in the lobby). Make a day out of it. Take good mental notes. Meet new people. Above all, enjoy yourself. Research can be fun, too.

2) Try a food you wouldn't normally eat. Last week, I tried beef tongue for the first time, in authentic-style Mexican tacos with fresh onion, cilantro, and salsa verde. It was incredible. This one throws a lot of people, especially Americans. Even those of us who don't consider ourselves picky eaters, are, by the rest of the world's standards. Our food literacy is pitiful. Our tolerance of different textures is nonexistent. Our willingness to branch out and try different--really different--things is abysmal. Change this! Challenge yourself! Who knows, you might find you actually enjoy, say, tongue tacos...

3) Talk to someone you wouldn't normally talk to. Whether it's the grocery clerk, the police officer at the lunch counter next to you, or the homeless person on the street corner, everyone has a story and a unique take on life. If you never talk to them, how will you know what it is? And you want to know. At least, you should. As writers, it's our job to translate people--their beliefs, their fears, their hopes--for others. And it's our duty to portray them for how they actually are, not just how we assume they are. Muster your courage, swallow any prejudgments, and introduce yourself. Ask a question. Ask another question. Then sit back and listen. You'll be amazed at people's differences. You'll be even more amazed at our similarities.

4) Find a piece of nature, no matter how small or how big, and soak it in. I'm lucky enough to live near several national parks, and within driving distance of the beach. But when I was younger, I didn't know about any of those things. I knew about the big open spaces in my neighborhood, the feral apricot trees down the street, the creek that ran, mysterious and otherworldly, a few blocks from my house. I spent lots of summers down there, picking blackberries, ogling tadpoles, getting dirty. I still do those things. You can, too. You don't need a bunch of fancy equipment or anyone's permission. Even in the city, wild things are all around you. Train yourself to find them. They're definitely worth searching for.

5) Take a back road. Street signs and freeways are all well and good, but nothing beats a one-lane dirt road winding through the middle of nowhere. I've found some of the best places to eat, met some of the nicest people, seen some of the most beautiful sights, when exploring off the beaten path. Don't let the people who have gone before you dictate where you go. Whether by car or by foot, blaze your own trails. Find your own adventures.

6) Get lost. In an age of smartphones and GPS, getting lost has become an art form. Hone your skill. Sometimes the best places are the places you never would have reached had you known where you were going. Turn off the phone. Leave the map in the glove box. Do what humans have been doing for time immemorial: go to the point where your knowledge ends. Then go a little farther.

Now before you start telling me about how you don't have the money or the time to be going on long vacations, let me be clear: exploration doesn't require a lot of money. It doesn't require a plane ticket, or even a car (although a car does help, I won't lie). And you don't need to quit your job to travel the world (if you do, send pictures).

All you need is an afternoon, a little imagination, some inner drive, and an inextinguishable spirit of curiosity.

Which, let's be honest, as writers we all have in abundance.

Author Laura Oliva
*Loved that post by Laura! Now, check out her latest release!!*
All That Glitters 
~ ~ ~ ~
Cover love!

Buy it here: 
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