I am especially honored to have Shallee McArthur here today, the first of many guests to come (the outpouring of support during this hiatus phase has been amazing - thank you, everyone!). I first met Shallee while waiting in line for a Brandon Sanderson signing, and we've been blogging buds ever since, and I can't wait for someone to pick up her book, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee (which will be the hottest YA sci-fi since Across the Universe, I have no doubt). Take it away, Shallee!
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When I was a sophomore in college, I took the most random road trip of my life. It involved me, a friend, a stuffed orangutan named Olaf, and a spinning bottle that chose our direction: north to Idaho.
Honestly. Idaho. What was of interest in Idaho? A lot, it turned out.
The whole trip started with a challenge from my creative writing professor. He wanted us to see life differently by simply doing something we'd never done before. He said to keep growing as writers - and as human beings - we had to get outside ourselves and our routines.
Usually, we have one perspective on life: our own. There's nothing wrong with that. It's what makes our writing unique, how we can take ideas that have been done a thousand times and turn them into stories only we can write. But it's important to remember that our view of life is not the ONLY view of life. Our stories become deeper when we incorporate characters with different views on key issues, or plots that show the complexities of a theme.
And so, I took that challenge and set out for Idaho with my friend. We had no destination. We belted out Good Charlotte songs, laughed over the insane stories in the Weekly World News, and stopped whenever we saw signs for things like "Historic Rock Formation, next exit." We discovered ancient horse fossils and a former Japanese internment camp. We met a 20-year-old guy from Australia traveling the world to BASE jump from everything he could, and watched him parachute off a bridge. We offered to wash our own dishes at a tiny mom-and-pop cafe, and though we were denied, we learned a lot about small-town life from that mom and pop.
Over the course of 3 days and 870 miles, I broke outside myself. I saw how the world looked from other people's perspectives. My own perspective changed. It didn't give me any brilliant story ideas, or change my life forever. But it widened my own view of the world just a little.
Any small thing we do to get outside ourselves can deepen us as individuals. And that, in the end, is what helps us write deeper stories.
I'm Shallee, and Idaho is a lot cooler than people give it credit for.