As a writer, moments and experiences have value to me that they might not otherwise. Sure, everyone learns lessons and changes and grows from the things that happen to them, but for me, there’s an added element: Whatever happens, now I can write that better.
That means the good things. That means the bad things. It means emotions, too. Heartbreak, fear, happiness—I can take that and bottle it up inside words, and I can make you drink it.
It doesn’t make the bad things okay, but it gives them a value they might not have for someone else. It gives me an upper hand over whatever hell I find, and an added joy over the good that I encounter. I don’t just passively witness the world. I take it.
I can have a friend call me, drunk and driving at midnight, confess in three words something that made me never talk to him again, and, at least, now I can write that. That terrible sinking rock in my stomach, that chaos, it's all mine now.
I can be harassed with a friend by a crazy chick in a big white truck. I can watch as her car hides behind a corner and her headlights turn off as she waits for us. Now I know what that’s like. I know the tricks. I can write that kind of crazy.
I can watch someone speak with such a weight that you hang onto the silence between each word like it’s almost as important as the thought itself. I can write that.
I can take the way it feels when I walk down the street at night, when everyone is just a hum in their houses, the freeway rumbling in the distance, and I am quietly witnessing the world when no one else is looking.
You get the idea.
The same goes for drawing. I watch people: how shadows fall, how lips settle together, how the lines of faces meet impossibly seamlessly. I constantly take note of the way the world looks and sits and moves. And yeah, I can write that, too.
Look. Listen. Feel. No matter what, take it in, note it down in your head or on paper, and use it. Whatever your art, live. Pay attention. There’s a world out there, and it’s your job to capture it in a way no one else can. Nothing will make your art as real as life will.
And when that fails, just make it up with confidence. That’s the real key to all of it.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve had any experiences that changed your ability to write. I’d love to hear.