Memorable writing is provocative writing. It challenges our thinking; it creates emotional swells. Memorable writing puts us in a place and allows us to see, smell, touch, taste the surroundings. We’re there. We’re feeling the feels. We’re inside the character’s head.
If a writer is able to create such a vivid world, they likely exist in such a world. They feel it deeply.
These are the writers who go out into the world and dare to remove the barbed wire and cement walls around their hearts. Their circulatory systems beat freely. They allow themselves to get hurt, or to feel full-body joy.
They question with the curiosity of a child. They observe. They see the crushed bug on the sidewalk, the shaking hands of a junkie. They hear tires screech or an ambulance blaring down the road and wonder what happened, what tragic events unfolded.
In my own life, my dullest writing typically occurs when I’m completely enmeshed in work, glued to my desk, clicking through my routine. I have to remind myself to get up, step away, experience life instead of writing about it.
I find that writing comes easier after I’ve gone out and allowed myself to feel deeply. Words flow with emotions. Conversely, if I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours, days in a row, I have to mine memories from my brain—I have to base my writing off the echoes of experiences, instead of diving into the rawness of life and reflecting on it immediately afterward.
Sometimes life knocks me on my back and I am overcome by the evil or compassion or creativity that I witness. But it is precisely these knocks that make my writing repertoire stronger. These knocks add to my experiences. They fill my internal image bank, so I can spend some time away from life, locked in my office, writing.
But I have to return, as any writer does. Because you can’t become a memorable writer if you only watch the world through television, movies, and books. The originality won’t be there. Your personal lens will be clouded by others’ perspectives.
It’s essential to go out, seek experiences, and live life deeply. If you choose to see the depth of your surroundings—the richness of humanity, the texture of nature, the sounds of industry—even your most mundane excursions will build your writing chops.
Kate Bitters is a Minneapolis-based author and freelance writer. She is the author of Elmer Left, Ten Thousand Lines, and He Found Me. One of her proudest/nerdiest moments was when Neil Gaiman read one of her short stories on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater.