Ok, most writers love their home atmosphere, the consistency of their writing space and their daily routine. Somehow, it seems to secure them the ability to think, come up with ideas, write… But then, what happens when you do your writing on the move, or move to do your writing?
Travel writing is, and it seems was always very popular, and in many cases is quite effective for its readers. What ‘always stay home’ writers seem to miss are the reasons why that is the case. On one hand, the readers itch not only for new experiences they get from travelogues but also a new perspective or set of perspectives. On everything. They expect that not only from themselves but from the writers too.
Joni Mitchell, one of the best singer/songwriters in modern music wrote (and sang) in “All I Want”, one of her most impressive songs:
“I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be
Oh, I hate you some, I hate you some, I love you some
Oh, I love you when I forget about me
All I really really want our love to do
Is to bring out the best in me and in you too…”
And that is exactly what travel writing does. It brings out the best in writers and readers because it makes them both look at everything from a different perspective. It doesn’t matter whether it is a never-ending journey or stepping away from your comfort zone for a day or two. The moment you step away into unknown or into a place you moved away from a while ago, you sense the differences, you pair the similarities and your perspective shifts. So does your writing.
It can only become better. New and unknown people and experiences bring along new ideas. Re-visiting places you have known give you not only the chance to compare the changes in them and the people that remained, but also give you a chance to clear your focus, like cleaning your glasses from all the muck you didn’t even notice was there. It revitalizes you and your writing, or as to quote the title of a song by Arthur Alexander a brilliant Sixties soul singer — “You Better Move On”.
Running out of writing ideas is probably one of the scariest things any writer can experience. The more the feeling that there’s nothing more to write about creeps in, the scarier it gets and even a scent of an idea seems to rapidly evaporate.
You start feeling that you need a magic wand that you tap on your computer screen, notepad or whatever that will suddenly bring you that life-saving idea, a magic carpet that will transport you from the desert to an idea plentiful oasis.
But if you can imagine that, you are already on an idea recovery track. But then, there’s always the possibility to run back and grab your security blanket, or you could borrow Linus’ one if he can be without it for a few seconds.
Usually, that is all it takes. A few seconds with your (writing) security blanket. Whether it is a person or persons, present or away, or a dear object, a blanket for that matter, it makes no difference, the inspiration is back and the ideas start to flow again!
Now, no matter how disconnected or obscure the initial idea(s) might seem, they tend to lead you on a path of a renewed creativity that produces real results.
Commenting on the reissue of Furr, Blitzen Trapper’s most coherent album so far, the band leader Eric Earley explained that in the preparation of the album he simply recorded seemingly unconnected images that even he initially didn’t know what they meant. In the end, he and the band came with a series of musical vignettes portraying Old Portland, where the band is from; vignettes that actually make sense even to listeners that may only have a vague idea where Portland is located.
Whether he was aware of it or not, Earley’s hometown served as that safety blanket that produced writing ideas. So if that idea-less time starts to creep in, maybe it is time to see where your loved ones are or start digging through the cupboards to see where all your childhood stuff is hiding…
Walter Kent the songwriter is probably best remembered for the holiday classic “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and the Forties hit “The White Cliffs of Dover”. But there’s a song he wrote that is really a jazz classic — “Love Is Like A Cigarette”. Quite a few artists covered it, including Duke Ellington and in more recent times, there’s a memorable version by Caroline Henderson.
Personally, the version that hits the mark was the one from the late Eighties by the jazz composer/producer/arranger Kip Hanrahan, where, in a mostly instrumental version, the sultry female vocals suddenly appear and in the same manner disappear, as they weren’t there:
“Love’s like a cigarette
You know you had my heart aglow
Between your fingertips
And just like a cigarette
I never knew the thrill of life
Until you touched my lips
Then just like a cigarette
Love seems to fade away
And leave behind ashes of regret
And with a flick of your fingertips
It was easy for you to forget
Oh, love is like a cigarette. ”
As with love, it is the ideas, particularly writing ideas that suddenly appear and as quickly disappear, or fade away. It doesn’t matter; they are gone. If we don’t record them down. In any way we can — sitting down staring at whatever screen we have in front of us, recording them on the telephone answering machine as we pass by it, on a napkin in a cafe, or in any manner possible, just making sure it isn’t lost forever.
Ok, so it doesn’t really have to be lost completely if we don’t record it immediately. The vestiges of our thoughts usually remain. But a question arises — is it the original idea we had in the first place? Sure, we can develop it from what we wrote (or record) down, but there will always remain that nagging feeling that something is missing from ‘the original’ one.
It is usually the case that the original idea is the best one we had. We can always develop it in any direction or direction the idea takes us from there, but like in Kent’s song ideas, like love “seem to fade away” and if not recorded will “leave the ashes of regret” behind.
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