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Monday Motivation – Experience Your Story
I’m in a season right now with young kids where traveling is a challenge. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting to travel and experience new places. And so to scratch the itch, I do what we all do—I watch the exotic travel shows, I read books, and study maps –god I am such a dad. I can really get into a place that way. There’s a texture that comes from that level of detail and attention.
But, take a moment with me, and imagine the first time you set foot in a really special new location. For me, I’ll pick the first night out in New York. I had just driven in as a young young young man with my soon-to-be wife and her family.
After getting our bags into the shared hotel room, my wife asked me if I wanted to go out to grab something to eat. It was maybe 10pm, I told her sure, but like, what would even be open at 10pm? She laughed, and without saying a word she took my hand. A few moments later, I stood on a bustling corner in midtown. Even at 10pm there were more people than I’d ever seen in my entire life. I’ll never forget the feeling on that corner, being sandwiched in a sea of humanity, with the heavy smell of street meat—hot dogs, kabobs, roasted nuts in the air. Even at night, it was as if it was the middle of the day. I think I fell in love with New York in that moment and I’ve never quite gotten it out of my system.
Now, I could have read about New York all I wanted, I could have watched any video about that insane city, but until I walked the streets at 10pm, I would have never understood New York like I did in that moment.
The same experience vs study mentality applies to writing. Yes, of course there is value in knowing the map of your story, of getting the history down, but as soon as you can, you need to get out on the street at 10pm to see the people, smell the smells, and just feel the air. This means you leave the world of thinking and planning about writing into the world of writing. Experience your story through putting words on the page. It does not matter if you are putting down good words, or the right words, it really doesn’t, because what you are after is not a good sentence, but an experience of your story. Have fun, take in the sights and talk to people. Notice the things you notice when you are in awe in a new place.
Once you’ve experienced your story, you can edit that experience into a working draft. But you can’t edit a blank page, or a bunch of research, or good intentions.
The practical next step here is to put words on the page, but do it not with the expectation and anxiety of having to tell your story, but through the lens of arriving in a new destination for the first time. Your only goal is to “get a sense” of your world and people, to see them in a variety of environments and challenges. Release yourself of the expectation of having to get it right, and you can just have fun.
Thank you for listening, and I hope you have a wonderful week of writing.