In the past seven days, I’ve shot a balloon with an arrow at the Pasadena archery range, practiced cha-cha one night and learned break on two salsa another, put on boxing gloves and sparred with my self-defense partner as we learned headlocks and groundwork, learned the basics of Python and how to hack a computer to redirect to Bing everytime you type in “Google” (nefarious, I know), and am going to a concert on Friday in Hollywood and the Getty on Saturday for live music. All while being a student and while working on a feature and a dramatic TV spec as well as post-production for my web series and holding down part time jobs.
It’s my belief that in order to write interesting stories, we have to collect interesting experiences. This can be done on a budget with an impossibly busy life, and can take many forms.
Here are three methods of finding adventure on a budget:
1. Go on a dérive. French for an unplanned adventure, usually through an urban environment, governed by rules decided on beforehand. This is an exercise in finding the unexpected in the world around you. Every time you see a door, go through it. If you see someone wearing red, wish them a good day. If you see a coffeeshop, buy a cup for yourself and a random stranger. You never know who you will meet.
2. Pick up unusual skills and hobbies. I think there’s something to be said about learning archaic or artisanal hobbies like calligraphy or archery. Each one has its own set of rules, skills, and people that it attracts, offering a new perspective on the world. I may not be writing a story about an archer, but one of my characters might use an archery metaphor or go out to a ball to dance foxtrot. These hobbies may only serve as tiny character details, but they can shape a character’s identity when used correctly.
3. Ask for favors from interesting people. I’m going to be able to sit in the dispatch office of my campus’ public safety office just because I asked the dispatch officer I met. I learned about guns from an instructor at a gun range, who told me all about how they worked. There are a lot of interesting people who live completely different lives than you or I do. Get to know them and gain their perspective so you can write someone like them.
Now go explore.