It doesn't take long, and it's mostly painless.
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I used the read the news every day. I had my local paper delivered and picked up a New York Times or USA Today. I would also follow the AP feeds online and check out other various news sites. Not only did I feel very informed, but I also got some story ideas from what I had read. As more and more distance is put between me and my journalism education, I tend to absorb less and less news—I don't bathe in it like I used to. I feel I am still pretty up-to-date on current events, but some days, I have no desire to read anything related to what's going on in the world. It's too depressing. That says a lot coming from me, who writes about the soul-crushing parts of everyday life and kills off characters willy-nilly.
Drawing from real life in your writing can work for and against you. As a fiction writer, sometimes I have a hard time discerning if something I am writing is entirely made-up, or has some root in real life—from a story I read or something someone told me, or a conversation I overheard. There are times in my life, when situations arise that are so ridiculous they seem to be a work of fiction, or feel like something I may have read about at one time or another. When I read a story like that—one that hits home, or where I can imagine the scenarios as real events—I feel more connected to that piece of writing. Than again, sometimes all I want to do is escape the every day. This is when I am grateful for books and stories that offer a little bit of other-worldly magic or absurd hilarity.
I watched the news today. I no longer have any desire to read any novels or short stories that have to do with government conspiracy, war, corruption, greed, murder, assault, death, lost love or anything remotely related to chicken farms. Is there anything left? If not, than perhaps I'll have to write it myself.