20 experiences for writing

I’ve been reading a lot of lists on how to become a good writer. And I’ve been thinking:

To be a good writer you have to read. Sure. This is a given. You read to listen to the way other people tell their stories; to be inspired. But that’s not where you’re going to find your story.

You have to have experiences. You have to live a good, thick, deep life. Which is hard to do, I think, when your nose is in a book the whole time. That’s my problem. I like reading so I miss the experiences.

I made myself come up with a list of 20 ways to have novel experiences. I’m going to try them all out and I hope you do, too.

  1. Throw a dress-up dinner party. Invite 9 people. Here’s the catch: each person has to bring a stranger.
  2. It’s not all about talking to strangers. How often do we talk to the people we already know? I’ll do a post on this tomorrow.
  3. Pick someone you know but don’t talk to a lot. Who is it? For me, I pick my cousin Brendon. He lives in a different city and I don’t see him often. He has a wonderful girlfriend. They’re both creatives. I’m often in awe of them. I’m going to give them a call and ask them questions.
  4. Make a connection on Medium or another platform. Go to coffee with that person. (Common sense required — safety first).
  5. Write a list of 52 skills you don’t yet have. Now spend the next year mastering one skill a week.
  6. Pick 7 people. Invite one person over a week and cook their favourite meal with them. This might work even better if the person is from a different culture or background to you.
  7. Have a potluck-book evening. Invite 9 people. Everyone brings their favourite dish and one chapter from their favourite book. Eat, read the chapters out loud and discuss. Take notes and send out a summary email afterwards. Or a piece of writing based on the evening.
  8. Invite fellow creatives over. Give everyone the same basic plot outline. Everyone has one hour. Read your stories out loud. Note: you don’t have to be a writer to write a story. It’s probably better and much more fun if you invite people with different creative skills. Their brains think in different ways.
  9. Pick one of the following and take the classes for one month: pole dancing, aerial yoga, roller derby, volleyball, touch rugby.
  10. What are you: a student, a worker, a senior citizen? One of the above by day and Batman by night? I don’t care what you are — take night classes in something. Philosophy, Coding, English Lit, Headstands. Pick one thing.
  11. The other day I woke up to an email from myself from the past. I forgot I wrote it. It was awesome. Do the same. Write a list of questions and send them to your future self. When you get the email in the future, do it all over again. Ask different questions or the same questions every year. Keep doing it until you’re 80.
  12. Write 10 letters about random things. Ask a question and leave a return address. Enclose the letters in envelopes. Put those 10 envelopes in random places around your suburb/city.
  13. Have a Hackathon but for writers. Set the clock at 24 hours. Hit ‘go’. You have 24 hours to write a movie script.
  14. Go to an open-mic night. Take something you’ve written. Read it.
  15. Give yourself one year. After that year, publish a book of essays on Medium.
  16. I like dinner parties so here’s another. Invite 9 people. Give them each the name of an author. The guest must pick one character from any of the author’s books and come to the dinner party as that character — dress and all. They can’t tell anyone who the character is. The other guests have to guess. They must also bring that book and read a chapter out loud.
  17. Buy a Polaroid camera. For one week, take photos of anything and everything. Get them developed. Put all the pictures in a bag and draw out 10 at random. In that order, write a story based on the images.
  18. Go on a silent retreat. The thought of staying silent for days at a time makes me feel claustrophobic and that’s why I should do it.
  19. Pick an online stranger-buddy. Give each other the title of your favourite book. Take a month to read. Discuss.
  20. I can’t think of another good idea. Only lame ones. Here’s a better thought: for everyone that reaches the end of this list, you make up the 20th point. Leave it in the comments (here on the blog or over on Medium).