And you know, it strikes me as odd that so many people think you need a reason to learn something. Because it's kind of its own goal, isn't it? But then I realized that there's a better answer.
And the answer is, of course, because I am a writer.
And then they look at me funny.
But it's true. If you're interested in writing books (well, in writing anything, I would guess, but books are what I know from), you might as well get invested in the whole lifetime learner thing now, because you are gonna need it. See, the problem with writing is that you need to know everything.
No, I mean it.
For example, for the seven thousand word fanfic I posted the other day (just for a fanfic!) I looked up: Boston street maps, Boston public transportation schedules, Boston bicycle routes, statistics on handcuff escapes, how to pick a pair of handcuffs, the name of a specific handgun firing position, various information on the current state of the art in large-caliber handguns and suppressors (and somebody wrote me to complain, but I have given up arguing with experts, especially since no two experts ever agree), HIV needle-stick infection rates, a whole bunch of information on abnormal psych, the procedure for obtaining a marriage license in Boston, the relative heights of a couple of actors, ballistic vest failure rates, a bunch of stuff on Pavlovian and operant conditioning, information on how the brain handles denial, information (spotty) on homosexual serial killers, a whole bunch of stuff on David Berkowitz and the Zodiac killer, and about seventeen other things.
For a fanfic. That I only did one draft of. And that I didn't invest a lot of time researching, because it was for fun.
Now imagine how much research goes into a novel.
I've walked through or at least driven past every real place I describe in Blood & Iron. (I have not however ridden a horse the entire length of Broadway.) I have however ridden a horse, and read accounts of it by people who actually know what they are doing. I've swung a sword. I've fired a gun.
I am not really a novelty seeker, but I try to make a point of, whenever an opportunity to do something new comes up, giving it a whirl. (I'll never water ski again, though. Ow.)
And even so, when I write any of those things, I still stop and research.
And the thing is, underneath that research there needs to be a layer of general knowledge that tells you when to stop and look something up. Because it's not the things you don't know that trip you up. It's the things you *think* you know. That you don't stop to think about.
Because often, you are wrong.
And that's why I'm learning math. And guitar. And why I practice archery. And why I juggle. Even though I do all of those things incredibly badly.
And it's also why I go for long walks. And read constantly, about as many topics as I can sustain an interest in. And why I love reading blogs and books written by people who live in other countries.
Because you never know where the telling detail will come from. And that detail is everything.
The more you know, the better you write.
Also, learning things is fun. And, you know, you have that neuroplasticity for a reason.* You might as well exploit it.
*neuroplasticity is cool. I started juggling in high school, took it up again in 1994 or so, and then pretty much abandoned it, like everything else I used to do for fun,. when I moved to Las Vegas. Having now taken it up again for six months ago (and when I say I suck, I really suck) I'm noticing that it's having effects.
For example, when I drop something these days? A lot of the time, my hand just sort of reaches out and catches it without bothering to inform the conscious mind that it's about to do that.
That's pretty cool.
Or will be until the thing I drop is a red-hot frying pan or a just-sharpened kitchen knife.
More on this later today, after I finish the Schwartz book. But first, food and then math.