As I go about my daily life, I see things through my own lens. When I write, everything has to be stained with the colours of my own personal taste. That’s as it should be – if you were a chef, you’d be a fool not to cook your favourite food. That’s where the passion lies, I think, at the source of your original love for your art.
One of the best things you can do as a writer is to keep your senses wide open to the world. You don’t even have to analyse things – just be as aware as possible of everything. You’ll soon find that you, like everyone else, have your own unique way of interpreting what goes on around you.
Sometimes when I ride the early morning train into the heart of the city, I imagine I’m heading to some smoky metropolis akin to Frank Miller’s Sin City. It might be an unpleasant place for someone else, but I love to write about these environments (A novella of mine, soon to be published, is set in just such a place), and the idea of living in one holds a certain romanticism that appeals to me. It’s also cool because it allows me to imagine myself as one of those tough private eye characters that inevitably inhabit the noir universe – Marv or Rorschach or Harry Angel.
What I’ve only just recently come to appreciate is how much this kind of awareness helps my writing. I start not only to see the world in unexpected ways, but to become aware of details I took for granted before. And details, my friends, are very important in good fiction.
I might notice a message spray-painted in bright colours on the tunnel wall: JESUS KILLS. Or maybe as I step off the train the first thing I notice is the smell of congealing oil from a nearby restaurant dumpster. Whatever catches your eye, nose, ear, mouth, or skin. The trick is to notice things and remember them, pleasant or unpleasant, and to frame everything so that it informs your writing later.
Hell, even if it doesn’t improve your writing, it sure makes the morning commute a lot more interesting…