Writers need experience and imagination.
When I say “experience,” I mean actually going out and doing things, meeting new people, or learning new skills. If you have ever gone fishing, for example, then you will be able to write more believably about fishing than the writer who knows about fishing through research only*.
As important as experience is, however, you also need to set aside time to reflect on your experiences in order to draw out the details that will make your stories that much richer. This is where imagination comes in, helping us transform the facts, details, and memories of our lives into interesting stories that other people will want to read and maybe even pay real money for.
Because the fact is, living an interesting life is no guarantee that you’ll write interesting stories. You need to learn how to write and reflect, as I wrote earlier. You need to learn how to turn your experiences into fuel for interesting stories and in order to do that, you need to make a regular writing schedule.
The exact balance between experience and imagination is difficult to achieve and varies from writer to writer. My suggestion is to set aside a certain time every day for writing so that you will always get at least some writing done, even if you live a very active life (if you need some help with that, you might want to read this blog post of mine I wrote back in November of last year on the subject).
*This not a slam against research. You can’t experience everything you write about, after all. I say experience is preferable; however, if you are unable to learn about the subject you’re writing about firsthand, then research is the next best thing.
How important is experience for writers? How do you achieve the balance between experience and imagination? Share your thoughts in the comments!