We often talk about getting out of our comfort zone, about widening experience so that our stories will have that extra jolt of verisimilitude. But, how in the world do we actually do that?
What is it like to be exposed to something totally outside of your realm of knowledge? Magical at first, perhaps, and maybe incredibly complex, then slowly, with experience, it becomes mundane.
I may have used the simile of tennis once or twice, or perhaps used the image of a difficult video game. With tennis, the ball comes at you at about a million miles an hour until you get a feeling for the game. But eventually the magic goes away and you can move with or into the ball at will.
What are some of the things that you could do to widen your experience? Here are 10 suggestions… perhaps one or more will light you up.
- Spend two hours in the waiting room of the emergency room in a hospital, at 2:00 AM.
- Talk your way into going along for the ride in a traffic reporter‘s helicopter.
- Take a tour of a chicken ranch, or better yet, the place where eggs are produced for human consumption.
- Interview for a job at a 911 dispatch office.
- Ride with an EMT for two hours.
- Teach yourself programming in the BASIC computer language.
- Get lost in a foreign city.
- Spend an hour in the kitchen of a busy restaurant.
- Volunteer to work with kids who have Down Syndrome, and find out what causes it.
- Volunteer in a homeless or battered women’s shelter
Yeah, this list could go on and on… and perhaps it should. These are the first 10 items that came to mind. With a little thought I might add such things as, teach a class through an interpreter, learn to finger-spell, spend a day doing intense physical labor under rough conditions, learn to ride a unicycle… and so much more.
What’s the idea again? self-flagellation? No, not a bit of it. The idea is to get close to ideas, processes, people who you would normally avoid, and in so doing, in facing the unknown, making yourself a better writer, and perhaps a better person.
What would you add to your list? Oh, and as I know many of you pretty well, the things on your list can’t be a hidden, guilty pleasure. They really need to stretch you.