The value of experience.

This year, my husband’s family and I went out to cut down our own Christmas trees.

Now, this may seem like a no-brainer. Maybe I’m the only person who thinks this is totally fucking cool. I mean, we actually got to hike out into the mountains, pick out our own tree, and cut it down (using a chainsaw, for goodness sake), then drag it back down the mountain, pile it into our truck, and drive it back home.

Like… Isn’t that really freaking awesome!?

No? Okay.

You see, my family didn’t do this kind of thing growing up. The little town we lived in was kind of remote, and it was full of miners who worked hard all day long for their living. The last thing they wanted to do when they got off work was to hike out to cut down a tree. Almost everyone I knew went down to the nearest store and bought their farmed Christmas trees. If they didn’t, it was because they already had an artificial tree at home.

In fact, one year my family bought a pre-lit artificial tree so we didn’t have to deal with all the pine needles.

So, even though trekking out into the relative-wilderness to cut down your own Christmas tree is kind of a “Christmas Tradition” we hear about all the time, I’d never actually had the chance to do it myself. Most people I knew growing up didn’t have the chance, either.

I’m not trying to say there’s anything wrong with that. The convenience of buying farmed or artificial trees from your nearest department store is really awesome, especially for people who can’t hike up a mountain. What I am saying is… this experience was something brand new to me–even though millions of people do this every year, it was something I’d never done myself.

My husband’s family does a lot of things my family never did, and in becoming part of the family, I’ve gotten a lot of first-hand experience with things I’ve never tried before. My first trip out of the country was with my in-laws. My first dip in a hot springs. My first visit to the ocean. My first time IN the ocean. My first taste of a variety of different, unique cuisines. My first time learning to ride horses. My first attempt (though painful) at skiing. You’re starting to get the point, I hope.

As a writer, I relish the chance to experience something I’ve never done before. The richer my life is in experience, the richer my writing will be for it. They say “write what you know,” and the more things you experience, inevitably the more you know to write about.

And it’s more than that. The more you experience, the more possible inspiration you have for your writing. The larger your internal vault of things you’ve done and places you’ve been, the more resources you can pull from when inspiration strikes.

One of the things I’ve done in building experiences for my book is develop a “writer’s bucket list.” This is different than the typical “things I want to do before I die” bucket list, though I guess it’s not all that impossible to have an item on both lists. A writer’s bucket list is a collection of experiences you want and/or think would be beneficial for a creative project you’re working on. These lists are usually things like visiting specific places visited by your characters or participating in hobbies or activities your characters are involved in.

Aside from this bucket list, I also try to make a habit to take up every opportunity I can for something I’ve never done before. I rarely turn experiences down just because I think I won’t be interested. Maybe I won’t be, but at least I’ll know exactly what it’s like instead of just guessing later.

Who knows–maybe someday that experience will come in handy for me.


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