I am a knowledge glutton. It’s an addiction (a good one). I love to learn.
And no, I’m not embarrassed by how nerdy a statement that is. Nerds are the coolest people.
The funny (insidious?) thing about growing up is that you don’t notice it until it’s too late. As a kid, I was all about escaping into magical novels, re-watching my favorite films ad nauseam, and blasting my favorite music (mostly Celine Dion and Jewel…I have terrible taste). Any learning I did was about what interested me—obscure mythology and fairy tales, Victorian history, and comic book lore—and the rest could rot, for all I cared.
But, like my opinion on Home Depot (seriously, how did it go from the seventh circle of Hell to weekend warrior heaven?), my views on learning and what’s interesting changed as I grew up.
Now, I’m less likely to re-watch one of my favorite movies on a given Saturday night, and more likely to screen a new documentary. Now, I’m less likely to listen to music while I get dressed, and more likely to put on a new podcast. Now, I’m less likely to escape into fiction, and more likely to pick up a weird, niche nonfiction.
Which is a rambling way to say that I’ve found that, the older I get, the more interested I am in expanding my horizons. The more I’m concerned about understanding the world around me.
Still rambling. Will try to focus.
Research is fundamental. It’s vital, not just for writing, but for life. For not just knowing things, but understanding them.
Think of it this way: you don’t need a degree, or training, or a computer, or fountain pen to be a writer. There is no certification or license you need to operate a plot. No special tools. No equipment. Nothing to prove.
In my opinion, all you need is an active imagination.
But an imagination is like a muscle—you need to stretch it, use it, make it stronger. You have to work it out.
And like a muscle, you have to fuel it. That’s where the research—the knowledge—comes in. After you work out, you’ve got to drink a protein shake to refuel, right (or you can use the Erica Bauman method and eat a large order of french fries)? And you wouldn’t run a marathon on an empty stomach, so why would you want to write without fueling up your imagination?
Regardless, I believe being hungry for knowledge, and putting in the work to get it is vital for everyone, not just writers (but, let’s be real, especially for writers). I’d call it a New Year’s resolution, but for me it started long before 2016. And I plan to continue to be a student for a lot longer than just a year. But this isn’t a call to action either, because who the hell am I to tell people what to do?
Consider this a hope I’m releasing into the void of the internet, on the only platform I have (because seriously, how would I fit this rambly mess into 140 characters?). I hope I—and anyone else out there—continue to learn this year, find new and interesting things, and exercise the imagination muscle. And I hope we all leave 2016 a little bit wiser.
Sound off in the comments: how do you find new and interesting things?