Life experience is important.
People like to say this. Writers especially like to say this; or at least some variation on this. Because, you know, without the experience of, say, driving from California to Alaska and back, I would a) feel less confident in my ability to effectively capture the remarkable beauty, vastness, and awe of that journey; and b) I would be lacking the tertiary bits along the journey that manage, as best as the person with the memory of a goldfish can muster, to provide the peripheral context and structure a road trip like that (i.e., long!) requires.
Plus, while imagination is certainly a necessary component to writing, creating, and living, it's often too distracting for me. Instead of bears and moose, there very well could've been magical geese along the Alaskan highway whose sole purpose was to awkwardly and often aggressively perform West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" in front of the car until they either combusted or molted into dust or transformed into goose pancakes for the melancholy night crawlers.
Then it's simply a goose frenzy in my head until whenever my brain feels like it wants to stop. At times, that's welcome and delightful. At other times, it's, well, not. So I seek to strike a balance.
Bumping into things.
But I don't think life experience is just about doing stuff and going places. I think it's about getting dirty; mashing our brains and bodies into the vast profundity and absurdity of this spinning orb we somehow randomly found ourselves in; or, as author Andrew Smith put it most eloquently, it's about "bumping into things."
To give Andrew's comment a bit more context, he said, "writers should make a habit of bumping into things." Smith, a writer in his own right (and a very, very good one; I recently read his latest, Grasshopper Jungle, and fawned all over its wackiness and beauty), gave the keynote speech at the Pasadena Teen Book Festival, an event put on by my booknerd friends Alethea and Alyson and where I was in attendance with dear pal Yi Shun. I would also say, and I recall that Smith had intimated this point as well, that non-writers, creators, artists, life's yearning gleaners should take time to bump into things too.
I wholeheartedly agree. To me, bumping into things is about challenging ourselves, trying new things, embracing the inevitability of blissful failure. To me, bumping into things is about broadening our perspectives on life and the many peoples and cultures within it. To me, bumping into things is about facing what you perceive as an uncomfortable experience but finding a way to be open to the possibility of discovering some new meaning of joy. To me, bumping into things is about learning and gleaning and discovering and meddling and prodding to our heart's content.
To me, bumping into things is what this life is all about. Let's do more of it.