Writerly Rant #38
by Mikael Carlson, Author.
There is an old belief that authors write about what they know. I don’t think anyone will dispute the truth in that statement, and if they do, I would be happy to argue with them. Simply put, creating a story or novel is not a trivial journey, and the best place to start the adventure is with what one knows best. However, there comes a point where writing about what you know becomes stale. If the sum of an author’s experience doesn’t extend beyond his or her hometown, there will be no growth as a writer and certainly no story worth reading about (unless you live in a very crazy town).
For anyone out there who has run into writer’s block with the size and strength of the Hoover Dam, there is one solution worth considering ― get off the couch. While an author can always explore different plots, themes, and genres from the comfort of a computer, travelling impacts the nature of what a writer creates. Here are some of the ways that extensive travel can benefit the creative process:
A Break from Reality
Some of us are on a permanent break from reality. I started putting all my daydreams on paper for that reason. For others, a respite from the grind we like to call “life” is a necessary thing. After all, isn’t that what a vacation is for? Getting away from the monotony of the daily routine is good for the soul. It’s refreshing, gives you a welcome reprieve from the rigors of your daily existence, and even offers the opportunity to center your Chi if you are into such things.
Getting away is nice, but sitting on a Caribbean beach resort while everyone waits on you hand and foot is not what I am talking about in this rant (although it’s never a bad option). Travelling to places you have never been before gives you new experiences and a fresh perspective. It gets you out of your comfort zone, and by doing so, forces you to grow as a person. For an added benefit, go travel someplace you don’t speak the language. Communication is the key to all human endeavors, so try it when the person you are talking to doesn’t understand a word of what you are saying.
A Change in Scenery
There is no place like home, but there is also no place like Tuscany, the French Rivera, Iceland, Korea, or China either. See them. Absorb them. Enjoy what they have to offer. Not only does it help to do some physical scouting of foreign locations for stories, but you will find the beauty of all the different places on this earth inspiring.
Travel stories are some of my favorite to tell and the most captivating to listen to. Nobody wants to hear about what you were watching on television on your couch last night, but they sure want to hear about your dinner on La Rambla in Barcelona or what it was like to visit the beaches at Normandy. They also want to hear about your interactions. Whether it is a guy trying to hit your rental car with a stick in Castries, St. Lucia, or the argument you had with your communist tour guide at the Great Wall of China that is the stuff great tales are woven from.
Meeting New People
Undoubtedly, you will meet plenty of new and interesting people along the way. Whether it is some Australian tourists in Florence, or a couple who hail from your hometown you bump into at a café at Versailles, people on their own holiday tend to be chatty, friendly, and have great stories of their own to tell. All of that is fodder for a writer. Heck, you never know when you might meet someone at a pub in The Netherlands or the Hard Rock Café in Nice who end up becoming your friend.
Time to Think
Writing is harder than most people think. It is a lot of work and can be very demanding on an author’s time and energy. If this is a full time job for someone, like Stephen King or any other big-time author, it is all in a day’s work. However, for the legion of indie novelists out there who write and publish for the sheer joy of creating, it can be draining. Travel gives you time to think, not just about your book, but whatever you want. As your train meanders through the French countryside, it is easy to get lost in your thoughts without the pressures of work or another chapter of your next opus to finish. That is almost as refreshing as lounging in the Hawaiian sun. Almost.
* This rant is all based on my personal travel experiences. If you have some good ones of your own, I would love to hear about them. Just write a note in the comments section!
Mikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novels The iCandidate and The iCongressman. He is an eighteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.