At work today, I heard rumblings of a fog warning. By the time I was heading out, that fog had surely rolled in.
I know what fog is, what it's like. You see pictures of it, movies, TV shows, and people describe it with their words all the time. But, never had I experienced it before.
When I drove to work, it was a lovely spring day. The roads were clear, dry, and sunny. When I left work, it was still those things, and yet it wasn't. The sun was setting, so the light was dimmer. The roads weren't any different to drive on, but they were getting damp from the fog. There was nothing on the streets to obstruct my driving, and yet I couldn't see the traffic more than a few yards in front of me.
Being in Buffalo, my first thought was that it was kind of like driving in snowy conditions, but it wasn't. The trees weren't white. The ground wasn't white. Sure, it was gray and low in visibility, but snowy conditions don't produce a vaporous cloak that enshrouds everything in the distance, while not obscuring that which is directly in front of you.
And not only did the physical conditions change, but the entire feel changed. This afternoon was a bright day full of life and hope. The evening was an ominous, foreboding trek through despair. Somehow, I knew every inch of the path, every turn and every landmark, and yet it felt like I had never seen this land before in my life.
There is no experience I have ever come across like fog (at least the kind that warrants a weather advisory). And nothing but experiencing it firsthand will inform you what it's like. Admittedly, some media can be incredibly accurate, but they can never exactly replicate the feelings and sensations you'll have if you were really there.
If you want to understand and know fog, then you must experience fog. If you write about fog by describing it the way other people do, then it's like making a photocopy of a photocopy. If you take other people's descriptions and you imagine what fog is really like based on those descriptions, then you are distorting reality one step further.
Live life, gain experiences, and try to remember them as accurately as you can. I don't recommend murdering people to know how it feels to kill (officially), but I do recommend you get as close to first-hand accounts as possible. Whatever you want to write about, either do it yourself, or interview somebody who has.