I usually talk about character crafting here, but this time I’d like to take a break from that and discuss the art of immersion and its dangers. Firstly, let me clarify what I mean by immersion. Have you ever gone through a phase where you realize you’ve read nothing but fantasy for three months? Where you haven’t wanted to watch any movie or TV show that wasn’t science fiction? Where you only listen to music that pertains to your characters or makes you think of your favorite mystery novel? Then you know what immersion is. It’s diving headfirst into a genre lake and staying there. Wild dragons couldn’t drag you out. Unicorns couldn’t convince you to leave. If, by some miracle, someone came up with a Jaeger and hauled you out, you’d go kicking and screaming. 

There are pros and cons to this when it comes to writing. If you’re writing a novel, then reading and watching tons of fantasy things is a great idea. If you’re writing a romantic comedy, watching chick flicks and reading Sarah Dessen is fantastic. If you’re writing the next western-sci-fi, then by all means, watch and rewatch every Firefly episode and cry over the fact that it was cut short. Paddle happily around in the genre lake until your fingers and toes wrinkle.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t drown in this lake. You can get so immersed in reading that novel, listening to that song on endless loop, or watching all the seasons of all the reboots of Star Trek that you forget to sit down and write. Or worse, you sit down to write and think, “I can’t do it nearly that well!” or even WORSE than that, you plagiarize. You aren’t writing your own story, you’re combining everything you’ve soaked up and typing it out like it was yours when in reality, you are only copying.

My advice? Combine it. Watch three fantasy movies and then watch a rom-com. Watch the Bourne movies and then watch Ever After. Watch seven or eight episodes of Legend of the Seeker, and go read a memoir. This will keep your head up out of the water and your perspective fresh. Get your own hat to pull magic tips and tricks from, but don’t let yourself get bogged down and overwhelmed by everything you have done, can’t ever do, and want to do.

Eventually, you have to stop soaking in the inspiration and use it.

Write on.

Mirriam Neal
Columnist