I always say, “If you don’t learn something new every day then that say is wasted.” Not literally wasted, of course, as every day has a purpose, but expanding your knowledge by learning one new thing about the world, yourself, or a topic is a magical thing.
The things we learn in real life can also improve our writing. If you’ve ever been punched in the face, I bet you could describe the pain and healing process pretty well. I had spine surgery when I was fifteen and I tend to mention the spine a lot because it’s something that is intimate to me. I’ve also come face-to-face with fire and can describe fires good enough that you might feel the heat of the flames on your skin.
I’m not just talking about big experiences though. I’m also talking about the little random things you may learn from day-to-day and brush away as unimportant.
Here are two instances off the top of my head when something I learned from real life improved my writing:
I was reading an article in a fashion magazine about Jennifer Lawrence when she randomly mentioned how her dad would lecture you if you confused cement for concrete. She went on to explain that cement is an ingredient in concrete. I took that new knowledge and checked my series for the word “cement” to see if I used it incorrectly. I did. I changed “cement” to “concrete” and now I know I won’t upset her dad, or anyone else.
Thank you, Jennifer!
The second example happened when I was reading “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green and came upon the scene when Lindsey teaches Colin how to shoot a shotgun. She tells him to squeeze the trigger, not to pull it. After I read that I recalled all the times I heard that in movies or on shows. For some reason it never stuck with me, but that time it did. So once again I checked my series, and all of my thriller stories, for “pulled the trigger”. Luckily, I only had to change a few sentences.
Before I close this, I want to mention one last thing:
I read two stories where the word “dumpster” was capitalized. I was confused, decided to look it up in the dictionary, and learned “Dumpster” is a trademark and the "D" should be capital. Well, call me silly, but I didn’t know that! It’s too late to fix anything that’s published, but I will fix my future works.
QUESTIONS: Have you learned something odd that improved your writing? Did you know Dumpster was a trademark?