Don’t just write stories. LIVE stories.


Today’s post comes to you from French Polynesia! Well, sorta – I wrote it while we were there, but I’m publishing after we’ve returned. Does that count? When I wrote this, I was surfing on the back of a wild dolphin, and the dolphin was wearing sunglasses, and was probably TOTALLY my new best friend. Yes, that sounds factual. *nods*

Craig and I are relentless wanderers, ever thirsty for the faraway. So we decided to celebrate our five-year anniversary on the Polynesian island of Mo’orea. Travel not only nourishes my soul, it betters me as a writer by providing my mind a rest as well as material.

But you don’t need a passport or even cool dolphin buddies to live your story. Anything that gets you away from the notebooks and making your own narrative is enough. An excursion into life itself: trying a class on falconry, learning how to fix a carburetor, attending an awkward office party, even just walking down an unfamiliar street… All of these fill your well of experience, the well you draw from when writing stories. They acquaint you with new knowledge and new ideas.

That weirdo on the bus wearing two hats? Put him in your story. That time your sister’s baby spit up all over your shoulder? Put it in your story. The embarrassment you felt when your barista turned you down for a date? Bummer, man… Put it in your story!

As Ben Franklin said: “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.”

Even if you don’t use your experiences as direct material, simply being in a new environment helps, because it churns up all those stagnant juices and gets the brain flowing. Creativity loves novelty.

And if nothing else, the vacation from your keyboard is important too. The brain is not a machine that pumps indefinitely as long as the button is turned on. Humans need rest. Sometimes not writing your story helps your story.

In conclusion, here’s a photo of my dolphin BFF sipping a Mai Tai.

drunk dolphin


24 thoughts on “Don’t just write stories. LIVE stories.

  1. I knew Lee would not only beat me to a punchline but come up with a better one as well! Great advice as always – and given the quality of your writing at a lower ebb I can only marvel at what may appear now you are fully rested πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post! I could not agree more. Live a life that inspires your writing. It’s a simple and effective motto I try to follow.

    I really like “creativity loves novelty.” I feel there’s a way to turn that into some super sleek saying that plays on “novel”, I’m just not cool enough to come up with it. Also, the Ben Franklin quote was the first thing I thought when I saw this post. Great inclusion!

    The dolphin bit reminded me of this part of the Lonely Island’s song “I’m on a Boat” (Uh, explicit lyrics warning):

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  3. “That weirdo on the bus wearing two hats? Put him in your story. That time your sister’s baby spit up all over your shoulder? Put it in your story.”

    Haha, right on. Love this post, Shannon! This reminds me of what a creative writing prof once told me about how I can’t write something I haven’t lived. To put it in other words, we can’t recreate something we haven’t felt. We can read about it, and therefore write about what we’ve read, but there’s something more urgent about having actually experienced what we’re writing about.

    I’ll be travelling over the next few months, so hopefully the novelty I’ll experience will become creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Millie! I do think it’s possible to write what we haven’t lived – otherwise nobody would write fiction! I have a whole post scheduled for the future about how to write what we *don’t* know by translating a personal experience into a new circumstance, and using empathy, imagination, and good old-fashioned research. But you’re right that a truly lived experience will be more urgent and more convincing, so it’s always good to tap into those, or to keep a writer’s eye out for what experiences could help us or give us ideas. If we’re writing a murder mystery though, er… better use imagination for that. πŸ˜‰ Haha.

      How exciting that you’ll be traveling for such an extended time! Where are you going?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow this post was kind of interesting even though I only skimmed through some of it! It IS true that our brains need a break from all the everyday lives that we’ve lived throughout time. Sometimes it can be hard to get done what we even want to get done. But you know what? JUST KEEP GOING. That way you can finally turn from failure to success!

    Liked by 1 person

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