One does not have to live among these things to remember them, and I do. They were and are part of me.
Indeed, I find that distance lends perspective and I often write better of a place when I am some distance from it. One can be so overwhelmed by the forest so as to miss seeing the trees.
There are worlds of which I write are no longer out there. There are here, ever present in my mind. Seated at my typewriter, I can in one moment move to the mountains of Pakistan or India, to vast invading armies with their forests of spears, all bright and golden in the noonday sun. I have read the history; I know the land. I know how it feels to be a fighting man entering combat, so I can ride with those men, fight beside them, fall to the field and lie wounded or die with them.
As I wrote the stories I could sell, I was like a squirrel, gathering the nuts of future stories and storing them for the years when my writing would be better and my market larger.
A thing to remember is that the audience wants you to be good. No matter whether they know you or not, they do not want to be bored, so whether you realise it or not, they are rooting for you.
This is an age of communication. At one time or another, nearly everyone will have to stand up and sell his bill of goods, whatever it may be.
Professor Thomas Davidson: "Associate with the noblest people you can find; read the best books; live with the mighty. But learn to be happy alone;. Rely upon your own energies, and so not wait for, or depend on other people."
Knowledge is like money: To be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.
Upon the shelves of our libraries, the world's greatest teachers await our questions.
Yet for those who have not been readers, my advice is to read what entertains you. Reading is fun. Reading is adventure. It is not important what you read at first, only that you read.
Many would advise the great books first, but often readers are not prepared for them.
Often ambitious young men or women write, wanting to work for me or assist me in my research. What they do not understand is that it is a labour of love, and I would relinquish no part of it at any price. I do not need help; I need time.
I want to read books, examine the archives, trace the routes on maps or charts. As I trace the routes, I relive the lives; I walk with the caravans; I handle canvas on the ships; I pull an oar in the galleys. I know the smell of the seas because I was there, and a thousand years ago it would have been no different. I know how it feels to ride a horse or a camel, and I want to live again with the caravans and seafarers.
I am not some mill that grinds our stories simply to make a living.
We writers, of course, stress the dramatic, and often readers forget the long periods of simply hard work that went to build the country. Gunfights were very rare, raids by horse thieves rare, but hard work was every day. Fencing land, plowing land, grubbing roots for firewood, all this was every day.
In Sinkiang and the Pamirs, the Taklamakan and some parts of Tibet, when one party meets another on the way, the greeting is often, 'May there be a road!' It is a land of frequent snow slides, rock slides and cave-ins. Roads are casually made, bridges are usually hanging from ropes, so the saying is apropos: One hopes the way will be clear, the road open. So, as one pilgrim says to another, I leave you with that wish: 'May there be a road!'