Writing is a tumultuous and unpredictable craft, and one that can be more than a little draining at the best of times. I can spend a month or so comfortably penning down short poems and small synopses of narratives without any real care or attention, only to find myself with a complete block in a matter of days; whilst obviously frustrating, I’ve decided that these periods of unproductive pondering should be treated as opportunities to find new inspiration, and to take a step back and analyse my work.
For example, prior to coming on this trip, I was working feverishly upon an idea for a novel. It had started out as a sketch of ideas, transitioned swiftly to the initial draft chapters that were so easy to write, and then ended in an annoying phase I like to refer to as “the struggle”. Let me explain what I mean by this term; working on a novel, or any large piece of text, is always going to be hard, and there will be a point where you want to throw in the towel and call it a day, chuck it in the stack of other unfinished manuscripts you’ve sworn to return to at some point, and shut down your computer. If you have a clear vision of where the story is going, or know that what you have written so far is worth such attention, slogging it through a month of gruelling edits and slow pages doesn’t seem so taxing, yet “the struggle” refers to a point where I have focused for so long on one project that I lose all sense of my intentions. At this crossroads, I sit down, read, re-read, re-re-read, and ask myself honestly if the idea, or what I’ve already written, is going anywhere special. It can be heartbreaking, and in this case, it was. I had begun with such enthusiasm that it felt like I was cheating myself of the countless hours I’d spent typing away, but it was time to stop. To be rather frank with you, after the initial 40 pages, the rest of it was drivel. Utter trash.
This was about two weeks before we left for Europe, and realising I hated my own work so much had seriously knocked my confidence. Now, it’s important to state that this novel had essentially taken over my life for a good three/four months; I had stopped reading, rarely left my room, ate like shit, didn’t exercise, and refused to write anything that wasn’t designed for its pages. This, I have realised, was a unfathomably stupid thing to do. After a full day of moping, I had a sudden inclination to readopt my routine of frequent writing, and decided to pen something for this blog every morning before breakfast. 12 days, and consequent poems, later, I felt like I had my judgement and confidence back to a level where I could feel comfortable.
Then, I found myself on the Eurostar to Paris, and realised I was about to spend an entire month completely outside of my little bubble of life in the countryside, and that no matter what I was going to do, it was definitely going to affect my writing. I made a promise to myself that I was going to write as much as possible in as many different genres as I could; I had spent so long on that novel I had forgotten how much I enjoyed everything else. I have written a daily travel blog post, some poetry, book reviews, essays, and a piece of short fiction that I’m actually proud of (which you can read – here). I have also rekindled my love affair with books, and have managed to get a load of reading done on all these cross-country trains (4 books and counting). This latter point has made me extremely happy, as reading has been a tremendous influence on my life for as long as I can remember, so to be able to sit down and actually enjoy these books was absolutely glorious.
Travelling has done more for me in regards to my writing than anything else I can think of; instead of actively seeking out inspiration, it voluntarily seeps through every pore – buildings, cultures, languages, people, food, wine, music, literature, history, all mingling and twisting in one giant melting pot that bubbles up with every new city and tastes better by the day.
Rather excitingly, after a particularly loopy dream I had a couple of nights ago, and based on our experiences whilst visiting certain places, I have started work on a new novel that I am actually ready to write. I have learnt to not try and make a narrative something it isn’t, or can’t be, and that there is often more to be found when you reduce it to simplicity. I have a story, a simple story, that I’m going to tell, and I know it will be my best work yet.
To conclude, travelling has offered me new perspectives on both the world and my work, and given me the space to analyse and define what I really want to say. It’s given me an idea for a novel on a silver platter, and forced me to learn from my mistakes. I’ve gained a lot more than a few good photographs on this trip, and I can’t wait until I can set off again.
Happy writing, guys.