“Explore. Dream. Discover.”Mark Twain
As authors, we flatter ourselves that the worlds and characters we create exist in – and stem from – the limitless possibilities of our imagination. Of course, there is more than a grain of truth to this. But to suppose that we are not affected or inspired by the people, places and events that surround us would be wrong; that flirty interaction with the pretty barista as you await your early morning cappuccino will undoubtedly find its way into a line of prose somewhere down the line – intentionally or not. It’s inevitable.
So, accepting the situations, characters and ideas we place on the page have, to some degree, a point of origin – a moment of genesis, doesn’t it make sense that if we were to expand our experiences, visit different lands and immerse ourselves in their prevailing cultures, our stories – our writing – will be all the richer for it.
I’m a great advocate for fresh perspectives. Without first-hand experience, our creations run the risk of becoming stilted and dimensionless. It’s all too easy to create characters and invent worlds from the comfort of home, but the world is constantly changing, and the information we receive through news channels and social media is, I’m afraid to say, unreliable at best. As writers and authors, isn’t it our responsibility to seek out those changes and incorporate them, whenever possible, into our work? I certainly believe so.
Now, to clarify, I’m not talking here about travel writing – the kind of cliched, mind-numbing nonsense a reader might well suffer through in a Sunday Supplement. Rather, I’m advocating the concept of Travel and Writing; the art of storytelling whilst travelling.
As I write this blog, I’m preparing for a new and exciting adventure. I have been granted a two-week leave of absence from the pleasures and delights of Blasdale Towers to take my notebook and pen, my camera and the library of unfinished works-in-progress that presently litter my desk across the pond to the United States and Canada (more on this trip here). I’m hoping that the very same fresh perspectives I extoll the virtues of above will launch forth a wellspring of interesting and new experiences that will inspire new stories and help resolve manuscript issues with those presently awaiting completion. But what’s truly exciting for me is the chance to meet, talk and share ideas with friends I’ve only hitherto known via social media. The chance to see their world first-hand and to experience these fabled lands as something akin to that of a local is, certainly for this author, a privileged opportunity not to be squandered.
I have visited the Land of Liberty many times, but never in the role of author and travel writer. This, then, is an exciting prospect; a transatlantic adventure that takes me to, as yet, unvisited States and Provinces, furnishing me with an opportunity to witness the exciting, changing face of both the United States and Canada. My passion for books will be sated too. Such a trip as this naturally allows me the freedom to introduce myself to local bookstores, to pick their brains as to current trends and potential markets; to better understand the reading habits of our post-colonial cousins.
Travel teaches us to live in the present, to take advantage of the opportunities that surround us – to make every moment count. For the seasoned traveller, stories have a habit of announcing themselves in the ether. They are fuelled by watching, listening, engaging and absorbing all that’s around us. They don’t tend to obey schedules, deadlines or other demands. Your story will come. But you must make sure you’re ready to see it.
Finally, there is, of course, a reciprocal aspect at work here, insomuch as the sheer physical distance from those we love gives us a palpable sense of longing for hearth and home; an overwhelming and unmistakeable desire, as our journey draws to a close, to return to the simple pleasures of our normal, everyday life. In this, I am no exception.