WOW, what an honor I have to introduce you today to our next wondeful and talented Guest, Diana. I trust you will enjoy her post as much as I do ♥
It’s a delight to be over here on Esme’s blog, and I’m going with the cooking theme. But since I can’t cook, this will be a half-baked analogy.
If you’re having a group of important people (like potential readers) over for dinner, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what you’re cooking up. Reading recipes and browsing images on the internet is a great first step, but it probably makes sense to check out the recipe yourself before you serve it to others.
Well, writing is the same way. Authors can collect amazing information online, and to be honest, there’s often no way around it, but trying things out ourselves provides invaluable inside knowledge that we can’t always get in other ways. I’d argue that the dish of details from first-hand experience is what deepens and enlivens our writing, and it’s the tasty meal that we want to serve up to our readers.
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, calls these experience-collecting excursions “Artist’s Dates.” Basically, you make a weekly date with yourself to expand your horizons, culinary or otherwise. I’ve taken the advice to heart on several occasions:
Three books of the Dragon Soul Saga take place on old sailing ships, and sailing around the lake on a sunfish as a kid didn’t cut it. So, I packed up my husband and dragged him off for a tall ship sailing adventure. While the rest of the passengers were drinking rum and listening to pirate stories, I was stalking the crew with my notepad like a nerd, asking strange questions that no one had ever asked, such as “What’s that knot called?” “How did they cook hot meals?” “Where did they go poop?” On a more exciting note, we did get to shoot the cannons!
If you’ve read my books, you’ll find lots of swords and staffs. My characters are frequently whacking someone or defending against getting whacked. A friend of mine suggested a sword-fighting lesson and, of course, I was all for it. If you’ve never worn a sword tucked in your belt for a day, you might not realize how much it bangs into furniture, people, pets, and ankles, or how impossible it is to sit in a normal chair. Yeesh.
The sword-fighting lessons taught me how quickly I would be dead. Partly because I couldn’t stop laughing and wincing, but also because this stuff takes skill and lots and lots of practice. No character picks up a sword and is suddenly able to defend themselves. Fortunately, I did walk away with my life and some understanding of sword-fighting strategies, even if I learned them in slow motion.
Another time, I borrowed a real spear with a wicked blade on one end and marched out to the front yard to swing the thing around, jab at the air, and look totally cool in my imagination. Fortunately, I live in the woods and only my dogs were home. Needless to say, they were unimpressed. Anyway, as I’m practicing my moves, I whip the staff around and the metal spear-head flies off the end, bullets through the air, and impales a fence post. The thing quivered, just like in the movies. The lesson of this particular adventure is to make sure that as you collect experience of this nature, no one is around, including pets.
I have others, but we’ll leave it at that. Never a dull moment. And whether it comes to cooking, writing, or living… Happy Collecting.
Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s Coastal Mountains with her husband, two dogs, and Pinky the Cat.