Hello, everybody! Amanda here, filling in for Angela while she travels into the Great Unknown Regions of Mystery and Death. Will she return alive? We don't know! All we can do is wait and hope.
And, in the meantime, I can blog!
A recently trending Twitter hashtag (#whyiwrite) asks writers--fittingly enough--to explain why they write. It took some thought for me. To be honest, it probably took more thought than it should have for someone who wants to write for a living. But I finally settled on my explanation. I write because I enjoy discovering. It's the same reason I like reading. I enjoy it because it transports me to different times, different worlds; it gives me insight into things I already know or tells me fascinating new things I never would have known otherwise.
There's a scene in the film Inception that expresses something of how I feel about writing. Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Cobb, is explaining that he has a complex reason for doing what he does. "Not just money. You remember, it's the chance to build cathedrals, entire cities, things that never existed. Things that couldn't exist in the real world." And for me, that's the beauty of writing. Writing a book can be as amazing a learning experience for the author as reading it is for the reader. I don't just mean learning new facts as you research, either--though that's a cool part of it. You learn things about yourself, too. One of my favorite "writing" quotes is by Gustave Flaubert: "The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe." I agree wholeheartedly--writing forces you to confront your own assumptions about human nature and the nature of the world we live in.
That's why I don't really like the old adage "write what you know." To some extent, it's a good adage. Me being the history-philosophy-literature nerd-type who can only count to twenty when I'm barefoot or wearing sandals--I might be wasting my time trying to write hard sci-fi. But, to flip that around, what better way to broaden my horizons and learn something new than to write? The best way to learn is to teach, another adage goes. I think it's true of writing.
Don't be content with writing what you know. Go and learn something you didn't know. That's the real beauty of writing.