Some of you may read that and say, "Austin, how in all hells can I, a humanoid, be a sponge; I'm barely porous on a good day and don't like the ocean one bit." The answer is simple, I don't mean a sponge sponge, I mean take on one of a sponges many qualities - absorption.
Many of my writer friends, and more of my writing students, believe the act of writing is accomplished only with pen in hand or keyboard at finger, but when they sit down to do so they find they have nothing to write. They sit and stare at the page, trying to drum up some vapid inspiration by which to be propelled into a frenzy of creative cannibalism, but again and again find themselves struggling to form even the most basic of sentences. The simple answer, they are being bad sponges.
Let me clarify. As writers we must be connoisseurs of experience. We must observe the world, take it in, taste it. We must watch old women sorting coupons at the grocery, children flock to ice cream trucks at the park, and men sporting large trucks at the filling station (partially to laugh at how much they cost to run, and partially to laugh at the anatomy they are making up for). This is how the writer fills their proverbial tank, they absorb.
Every experience you have, every meeting with a friend, every time you're mad-doged in a bar, you are writing. Maybe not right then and there, but that experience will age and ferment, it will smolder and smoke, and eventually you will forget about it... and then BANG it's there. Right in front of you. Pouring out of your fingers onto the page. And until you have become aware of the process you will ask yourself, "Damn, where did that come from?" The answer is this, you absorbed it.
So go out into the world and do crazy things. Learn something new every day. Say yes rather than say no. Spend a day pretending you are someone else. Go somewhere you will never go again. Take up a hobby. Learn to lock pick. Smoke cigars. Just do something, because it will inform on your writing. Absorb! Absorb as much as you can, as often as you can, and as thoroughly as you can.
And some day, you will thank me for it.
- Austin R.
Here's how to practice:
Find a populated place you can write without being conspicuous (grocery store, restaurant, coffee shop) and people watch. Choose a target. Observe the animal in its natural habitat. Write your observations down. Write their life story. Where did they come from? Where are they going? What happened to them lass night? Why do they have that limp? What life experiences can you learn from them? Do they have children? What will they tell them on their death bed? Etc... etc... etc...
Store all this away. Let is smolder and smoke. Let it age and ferment. These are tomorrows stories. When the story goes BANG, when it is right in front of you, pouring out of your fingers onto the page, remember this... you absorbed it.