Maybe the new advice is “know something before you write.”
After all, aren’t the best books the ones which have details of other worlds than we know? Worlds where we are percussionists, unwillingly follow the renaissance fair every summer with our parents, live on the outskirts of a reservation in Minnesota, or run away from home to find our fathers in Ireland — those are worlds we don’t inhabit, and stories which catch at our imaginations. Why should we want to linger in worlds as common and as familiar as our last names?
Breathe in the world.
Breathe IN the world.
BREATHE in the world.
“I have been known to tell my writing students: If you are going to stand on the shoulders of giants (as we all do), read what they have read, not just what they have written. Take a course in bird identification, on the proper way to set in a sleeve, how to roast an ox, how to weed a garden. Read a book on shoing horses or stand by someone doing it. Smell the air. Name the clouds. Learn how to read the stars. Taste a clementine with your eyes closed. Go through your house eyes shut and touch as many surfaces as you can. See what grows in the cracks of a city street. Dive into the ocean. Ski down a mountain. Sit on a rock and watch without moving all that moves about you. Breathe in the world.”
– Jane Yolen, Journal 12.24.08