I just got back from Guatemala. I go down there to build houses and teach VBS. Building a house consists of putting cinder blocks together on rebar, placing a metal roof on top, doing the concrete floor, and digging a sewage ditch. Someone certified does the electric, and we really can’t do grunt work on that one.
Between this and Tough Mudder, I’ve learned a lot. Consider it research.
I hear from more people than I should, “I don’t need to do research.” Now if you’re writing a memoir, I kind of understand. It’s still valuable to get multiple view points, and only one way to do it. But I hear this from a lot of people writing fiction, especially the type with a lot of action that is outside our usual life. They take us to worlds that are not like our own, but they only know their backyard.
Books can give a good amount of inspiration. Artists give me a lot of my inspiration. But there’s still something I cannot understand. What is it like to run through obstacles, to travel through mud, to find a river and think, “What’s on the other side?” Then, to go across the river and find out. There are challenges and pains in traveling down rocky cliffs and traversing rivers. There is a very real reason why you want to avoid getting your feet wet if the river is filled with rocks, and with a little effort you can avoid water. There’s a very real reason you don’t drink out of the river.
Or you know, the terror of a bridge that isn’t stable. The curiosity of what’s on the other side of the river that’s rushing, so you take the boat anyway.
These are incredible experiences I wouldn’t totally comprehend otherwise. I struggled with a light shirt and jeans, imagine full plate, if you will, when it’s ninety degrees and the humidity is to the point where when you swallow, you’re drinking water.
What’s the short of this post, aside from I just got back from Guatemala, and I’m still on this kick? Go out there. Live life. Watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty if you need an extra kick in the pants. But live. Without it, you won’t be able to breathe as much life into your own characters.