We are watching David Baldacci’s MasterClass in the evenings while Steve lifts weights. One thing Baldacci said about research struck me. He lives just outside of Washington, D.C. and previously worked as a lawyer there. He talked about the importance of personal contacts, of connecting to experts and people with the real world experience that can impart critical information to a writer.
Baldacci is connected to Washington politics in a way that I will never be and it makes his books better. This is a kind of social wealth. Unlike financial wealth, we all start out with some forms of social wealth that can make our writing better, but it’s often hard to see.
One of the women in Memphis Writers is writing an amazing urban fantasy novel centered in traditional African-American spiritual practices and magic. I was amazed by the detail she was able to impart. I’m going to get it wrong if I say that it was an aunt or a grandmother that knew someone who could help her, but it was something like that.
The depth of knowledge she had at her disposal and people’s willingness to talk to her about obscure and relatively secret practices is impressive. That is the power of friendship and kin connections. She’s an amazing writer, one of those who could write a menu and have you begging for the sequel, so these connections aren’t why she’s good. But they give her details that impart an immediacy that electrifies her prose.
It’s hard for me to see my own social wealth because it is either the ocean I am swimming in, so I find it commonplace, or it is one step removed from me and I’m too shy to ask for help to forge the connections.
I fear being a burden. But asking someone about the thing that makes their life meaningful is often welcome. They give a gift, their knowledge. In turn, my interest in their passion or their work is also a gift. Joy shared does not diminish, it increases.
Every year or two I make lists of the things I know, the people in my life who know things, and what kind of stories I could compose from that. Often nothing comes from my list. This is where it helps me to have people to talk to. Recently I discovered that my experience hiking in the Rockies (something I think of as commonplace) is fascinating to a friend who lives outside the U.S. Who knew?
I hope you are also finding your social wealth and the details in your life that will ground your stories. Be well, friends!