Monday, February 7, 2011

I've been to the Trevi fountain, but not like this

The bloggers' exchange continues with another guest post. While I don't recommend getting yourself chased by someone with a shotgun (!), the lesson of using our 3-D experiences in our 2-D worlds is always a great one to remember. And I would love to see the color festival ...

The Importance of Being Interesting
by Teralyn Pilgrim

We learn how to write while sitting at a desk: in a classroom, at home with a notebook, in a critique group, at a café table with your computer. More than any other art, writing is about sitting in one place and doing the work.

More than any other art, writing is also about life. Without life, there is no writing. Every experience you have, every person you meet, every scent you smell, and every food you taste contributes to the intricate web of who you are and what you write.

Reading is not enough; if you only write about what you’ve read, you’ll only reiterate what’s already been said. There’s no substitute for a good life.

One of the coolest things I’ve ever done was go to an Indian color festival. Everyone bought bags of colored flour and threw them at each other until hundreds of people were drenched in rainbow slashes under a cloud of stunning color. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Here’s another example of a cool experience: Once my best friend was deathly ill on a sight-seeing trip in Rome. By the time she got to the Trevi fountain, she couldn’t go any farther. She curled up in one of the crevices in the rock and fell asleep for half an hour until a security guard made her move. She’s probably one of the few people in the world to sleep on the Trevi fountain.

When my husband was a teenager, he and his friends liked to cover other people’s houses in toilet paper. Once an owner chased them out with a shot gun and called the police. They spent several hours running through the woods away from the cops, and at one point, my husband lay face down in the dirt while a cop stood only a foot away and shined his flashlight right over him.

Even if we don’t write about these experiences, they’re valuable experiences that will bleed into our writing. I learned about dazzling color, my friend learned about spontaneity, and my husband learned about adrenaline. We can use all of this.

My challenge to every writer is to go out and live. Fall in love. Get in a fight. Do something dangerous. Learn a new skill. Listen. These are the building blocks of our work, and the more incredible the building blocks are, the more incredible the writing will be.

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim is the author of the unpublished novel Sacred Fire, historical fiction about the Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome. She blogs at

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