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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feeding the Muse

I'm writing this from a beach house in Hawaii. It's peaceful and relaxing. There is good food, good weather, the sound of the surf, the smell of brine and plumaveria. Better yet, a very generous relative is paying for most of the trip.

There is only one problem. It does not feed the muse.

One day on one of my more challenging trips--Morocco, say, or Thailand--would be worth more to my writing brain than any number of weeks in Hawaii. Imagine shopping for spices an ancient souk or riding an elephant into a tiger preserve and the story material you'll find there. Even the challenging parts--a strange gastrointestinal ailment in Peru, spiders the size of small kittens in the Amazon, an aggressive tout in Tangier--spin off a dozen story ideas.

Sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it? Not so much.

I hope to take a more challenging, exotic trip some time soon, but meanwhile I'm always on the lookout for unusual experiences that don't punish the bank account as much as travel. I signed up for a Dengue fever vaccine study recently after a medical facility tracked me down because of an old yellow fever vaccination. Not only can I help fight a nasty disease that hits 100,000,000 people every year, but I can pick up details that lend authenticity to any medical-related fiction I write, as well as learn more about tropical diseases.

I might go back on stage this fall with a local company that is doing a production of Cabaret. You know how I love the historical settings.

In the past, I have studied foreign languages, taken up skiing and diving, and a host of other things to broaden my experience base. The risk for a writer is to sit in his or her writing room and live entirely inside one's own head. Do that and you may as well double up on the umbrella drinks, because you've sent your mind on a permanent Hawaiian vacation.

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