Think about your favorite author. What is it that keeps you coming back to that person’s books? Perhaps you enjoy the type of stories the author tells. Or the books feature a recurring character you like. Perhaps you like the way the author uses language or the types of scenes that appear in that person’s stories. In short, you like the author’s style.
I was heavily into politics when I was younger because I was scared about my future and angry at the world. My friend Gino and I got involved in different political campaigns and protests. One of our targets was a measure on the 1982 California ballot, Proposition 9. This measure would have built the Peripheral Canal that would divert water from the Sacramento River to Central and Southern California. This would have been destructive to the environment. (It also wouldn’t have done us any good these days when there is no water to be had anywhere in California.)
Joan Rivers did several TV ads in favor of the proposition. When she performed at the L.A. Cabaret in Encino, Gino and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make our opinions known. I created the flyer you see to your left. While Joan was doing her act, we placed the flyer on every car in the parking lot.
Why do I bring up this story while the world is mourning her death?
One of my first lessons in creative writing at Reseda High School was partly a trust exercise. It took place in the horticulture area that used to be at the back of the school. We were paired with a partner. One of us was blindfolded, and the other led the blindfolded person to various plants, buildings, and other items. We had to learn how to sense and describe items without seeing them. We focused on how they felt and smelled and what kind of sound they made. We would then trade off, and the other person was blindfolded and led around.
As lawsuit-sensitive as we Americans are now, such an exercise couldn’t be done in a public school today. However, this exercise gave us an important lesson about observation. You have to observe with all of your senses.
Intellectual curiosity is the most important skill you can develop as a writer. When you dig for the truth, you’ll uncover information that will make your writing more informative and interesting. You can challenge established (but untrue) assumptions. People will want to read your work because they can learn something new and see things differently. Intellectual curiosity will make you a better writer — and a better person overall.