“Just sit down and write, that’s all it takes!” Good advice for a writer just starting out, I suppose. The problem with advice I get on creative writing is that it often assumes that I already know what I want my story to be about. As a creative writer, sometimes the biggest challenge can be finding your story in the first place. But after spending some time abroad in Wellington, New Zealand, I’ve noticed that my creative writing skills have been vastly improving. I was confused by this at first, but I’ve narrowed it down to 5 reasons why study abroad improved my writing:
1. I consumed so much new media.
I like to think of myself as a person with varying tastes in writing and television, but the truth is, I sometimes get stuck in a rut of repeating the same 2 shows and books over and over. Going to a new country gave me the chance to step back and evaluate what I was reading and writing. I bought myself a new book to read on the plane ride, downloaded a new podcast, and even registered for a library card at the Wellington Public Library. All of this encouraged me to expand my horizons, and the new media I was consuming gave me so many new ideas for my writing.
2. I was forced to learn new writing styles.
At my home university, I was accustomed to writing in MLA style for all my class essays. I was so comfortable in the style that I knew I could crank out an essay the night before the due date and still meet the essay requirements. However, Victoria University classes typically use the Harvard system for their assessments. This change in writing style forced me to have to think more critically about what I was writing and why I was writing it. I began working harder on both my class assignments and my personal writing, and the impact it had was clear.
3. I had time to observe the world around me.
Since I found myself in a new and unfamiliar city, I decided to give myself time this semester to simply explore my environment, rather than trying to work an on-campus job like I typically do. I found myself with plenty of time to wander the city and just observe the people around me. I used this time to practice my descriptive writing skills: How would I describe the Wellington waterfront? How would I put the sensation of riding public transportation into words? How would I illustrate the hiking trails behind my house? Soon, these descriptions began to find their way into my writing.
4. I met new people with unique character traits.
When you study abroad, you’re bound to meet new people and make new friendships. The friends I made on my ISA program helped inspire some of the characters I put into my stories and gave me new experiences to draw upon.
5. I learned spontaneity.
Sometimes, things will just happen to you when you’re studying abroad. A calm night in might turn into a sudden rush to the box office for a play you’ve wanted to see for years. A casual backpacking trip might turn into 100-person strong bonfire bassoon boogaloo. A batch of cookies for yourself might turn into seven batches of cookies for your entire flat. If you learn to set your anxieties aside and go with the flow, you might just find yourself in the middle of the perfect story.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.