Over spring break, we cashed in my husband’s frequent flier miles and Marriott points and took the kids to Washington D.C. where museums are free and drivers honk their horns 100% more often than Seattleites do. I don’t think car manufacturers even install horns in the cars of Seattle drivers.
A highlight of D.C. was a dip into the Renwick Museum, a gem that stands proud and plucky in the shadow of the big-shot museums. Its current exhibit included sculptures and 3-D art, structures built from thread and twisted branches, glass stones and old growth cedar, tire rubber and thousands of dead insects. The exhibit is called Wonder. It’s wonderful.
In the gift shop, while my daughter ran her hand over a $500 rainbow scarf and looked at me with pleading eyes, I ignored her ridiculousness and picked up a book by Keri Smith titled How to be an Explorer of the World: Portable Art Life Museum.
My daughter kept petting the scarf.
“No one needs a $500 scarf.” I held up the book. “But everyone needs this. And it’s $14.95.”
The format and visuals of the book appealed to me instantly; the text appears handwritten, complete with crossed-out words, underlines, playful lists, simple line sketches and quotes from smart artists. And the message? Pay attention to the world. Notice stuff. Pick up weird things you find when you’re out and about and study them. Observe patterns in both nature and urban areas.
We writers are explorers of the world—the real world and our fictional worlds. We are eavesdroppers and question-askers. We are curious, and we spot connections, themes and symbolism in our culture, jobs, neighborhoods and homes. We have the privilege of experiencing deep purple emotions, jagged edges and glass smooth surfaces, upside-down Technicolor in 3-D. Not-writers aren’t so lucky (she said in a whisper so the not-writers wouldn’t feel too bad about themselves).
Yet we juggle fiction writing, day jobs, caring for children and/or aging parents, mental and physical health. In other words, sometimes we forget to pay attention to the world.
Thank goodness, then, for How to be an Explorer of the World, in which Smith offers fifty-nine Explorations to develop our exploring, noticing, watching muscles, the very fibers we use in our fiction writing. [Read more…]