First You Must Live

Pictured is a set of quotation marks.

“In order to write about life first you must live it.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I chose this author quote because its meaning has changed so much for me lately. 

I used to think writers must get out there and do things that are different from what everyone else is doing. They must live a life less ordinary and share their exciting experiences with their readers. 

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years as a travel mystery writer. And it was awesome. Until everything changed.

What this quote means now

I struggled to decide what type of story to choose for my current project. Without being able to travel, writing travel mysteries is next to impossible. If you missed it, you can read about the many directions I considered in my post – One Of These Is Next.

I can’t travel to far-flung destinations. I can’t meet new people face to face. I can’t see people from different cultures going about their day to day lives. I can’t stand in the places I want to transport readers to.

I need to pivot. So what can I do? 

I spend most of my day confined to a small space with a small number of other people. I am very limited in where I can go. I am having to work with what I’ve got and learn how to do things someone else would usually do. I am missing the people I used to spend time with. I am missing the places I used to be able to visit.

So should I write about that? Well, who would want to read about people being stuck at home during a pandemic? Not anyone who has been stuck at home during a pandemic! But looking at the previous paragraph again, you’ll notice I didn’t mention being at home. Or anything about a pandemic.

There’s always another side to the story

That’s the joy of writing fiction. I can tell my story through an exciting idea that is not like my life at all. I can find parallels between my current situation and that of someone living in a completely different place and time. And I can imagine that because I have already met so many people living different lives.

I can write a story in which readers will find their own struggle and recognise their own emotions. And at the same time, make them feel they are a million miles away from their own world. That’s what authors do.

I’ve lived a lot during the last year. Now it’s time to write.

Want more?

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