Get Out of the House

To the Moon, Alice! (Image from NASA, obviously.)

Us writerly-types like to hole up with a keyboard and bang away at a story. It’s the rare genius who can do only that and be successful.

It’s my experience that a number of writerly-types aren’t terribly social people, either. This isn’t necessarily good or bad nor is it something that should be worried about. Some of the best writers all over the world aren’t  really social, don’t understand how best to interact in real life but can write about relationships like no one’s business.

Observation is the key, I think.

Having just watched HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn (which may be my favorite role of Nicole Kidman’s and one of my least favorite of Clive Owen’s) it can be unequivocally said that getting out of the house is the best way to inform your writing.

(As an aside, I recommend watching Hemingway & Gellhorn for the fact that the writer’s experience is excellently portrayed and Owen nails Hemingway for the complete bastard that he was which is why it’s among my least favorite roles of his. I’d love to see HBO do a Graham Greene biopic someday but that’s just wishful thinking on my part. Anyway.)

Since I’m not a war correspondent, nor actually a reporter of any kind, I have to get out of the house in different ways.

I attended a reading and signing in town recently and met up with a writer friend, an artist friend and two others who I knew in passing an another friend was going to join us later. I’m in a different line of work for my day job than they are so most of my evening was spent just listening to their stories and laughing and drinking. But at the same time, I’m watching everyone around us at the bookstore and at the restaurant. There are conversations to be overheard and filed away for later use and that’s a great way to inform one’s writing.

Additionally, exercise is great for lubricating the brainbox, too. Again, getting out of the house is best whether it’s heading off to a gym, a class or just talking a long walk.

Every week my wife and I are at a greenhouse or one of the home stores looking at anything that might be great for the house. Everywhere I go, (not just the greenhouses) I’m looking at everything: colors, architecture, negative spaces, decorating choices. I take in the sounds and the smells. Touching something helps, too, although tasting things is tricky. (Some places frown on you licking things seemingly at random. One must be surreptitious.) Really it’s just being out of my everyday environment and being willing to be open to the entire experience.

It’s one thing to be social on the internet. There’s  a kind of bravery to being out of range whether on Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr or About.Me and being able to unfollow or unfriend someone who doesn’t agree with you. However it’s a poor writer who’ll do that. A writer has to be open to the entirety of life in order to be a good writer. You have to encourage people to think you’re a good person and that you do indeed care what they think about your work.

So, maybe I’ll see you around out in the world. I hope so. Don’t hesitate to come up and introduce yourself or say hi.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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