I am beginning to think that travel is bad for the writing process. It seems that the more places I go, the less influenced or inclined I am to #write about it. I understand that other authors have had, in a great many instances, just the opposite effect– with travel necessarily incorporating new and exciting ideas and thought processes into their script. The problem becomes, I suppose, on how fast you travel, and whether or not writing is the main focal point during that particular journey. I can tell you that my focal point is not merely to write, though I would #love to have that as a by-product; and the method of travel is usually pretty quick, even by my slow-by-the-side-of-the-road standards.
It ultimately comes down to, I think, if you feel comfortable where you are at. For me, this has become a two part question. On one hand, I feel very comfortable wherever I may be, well enough to sleep soundly. However, to feel comfortable enough to absorb those surroundings and to then import them into your own “settings”, is something that I do have some trouble with. As an example, I am currently in #California, which is– to say the least– absolutely RICH with any number of topics and ideas… notions which have inspired the greatest of the writers we cherish today. I won’t bother to rattle off the list, but it is sizeable, and any fan of the written word worth his or her salt would have a real difficulty if they couldn’t name at least 2-3 renowned writers from the State of California in their first breath.
As one example, I simply have to mention Steinbeck. I understand if people get tired of hearing me ramble on about him, but goddam it- I like his style. It is also very important to note that, strictly fiction aside (and I DO consider many of his works to be semi-nonfiction, if only for the realistic settings and places in time), during the time that he lived and wrote in New York City… he wrote, for the most part, about California! Just as important, during those formative years in which he did live in California– he mostly wrote about California. Even in “Travels with Charlie”, a book which he admittedly said that things must “ferment” before he could write about them, and even though the trip was initially meant to at least provoke some on-the-spot note taking, there was a scarcity in that. More than anything, on setting out to “know his own Country”, my thoughts always were that he re-discovered some of the similarities previously known during his youth, and as such, there are numerous references to his home State.
My conclusion on Steinbeck is that travel enriched his writing, but in a manner in which a good thesaurus might accomplish the same feat, albeit to a somewhat deeper extent.
So, is it any kind of abnormality that I write, no matter where I am, about the mid-west, rural highways, and the like? I don’t think so. They say that to be successful, you should endeavor to “write what you know”. The fact of nearly every matter is, that no matter how far I attempt to broaden my horizons, they stay relatively flat in the 20-30 mile radius surrounding the place of my childhood. Any journeys that might be mentioned of are usually done in the form of recollected thoughts and images, and even these aren’t’ very clear at times. I would suggest that this might be the truest form of fiction/non-fiction (at some point, the line DOES become blurred… I don’t care what anyone says), if you write it, it MUST be true, at least on some level. Therefore, to the #author at least, and then– if he is believable, to his audience, the work is non-fiction and true in every sense of each word. Truth… the key to all good writing.
Lies don’t look good on paper, and they’re even worse when coming from the pursed lips of the liar himself. Write what you know, say what you know, don’t lie once, and you won’t ever have to lie again! These are words not only to live by, but by which utterly disprove the notion of “fiction”. I hate the word.
That word, when attached to any story or account I have written, means that it is made up, and this cannot be the case. For, if I were to make it up, I would have had to lie! How can I LIE and still write in a believable way? The written word holds little emotion– except for what the reader is able to draw from the pages, and any intonation is wholly dependent on the skills of the writer in question. Simply put, it’s very difficult to fill any number of pages, and make them readable and continually interesting, if EVERYTHING is a lie… if it is FICTION! I don’t believe in fiction, and from here on out, refuse to even acknowledge it.
Instead, there should only be documented research and non-fiction… maybe biographies as a genre, though they ARE mostly lies. Auto-biographies? Forget it, Lies built and predicated upon stacks of stinking lies. If there is a fiction on the planet, it is biographies and auto-biographies.
I write what is true to me. I write what is near to me. So, there is no fiction on my pages– I’m too old for it, and I’m way to honest for it. Fiction is dead to me, and if you’re smart, you’ll let go of the notion as well. After all, what are you going to possibly gain by reading something that someone else “made up”? The answer– …. NOTHING.
Learn to Read the same way that You Talk
When I pick up a paper or a book, I read it in my own voice, and this; once again, makes it very real to me. If the text is good enough, I live it vicariously off of the page. If it is not, I wade through it, for as much as I can stand, and then finally put it down… and will look for something halfway believable to take in. I read as I write, and vice versa. Essentially, I tell myself a story, and at that point, once again, if it is not true, I can’t write it. I must have lived it, consciously or not, or else I am unable to write coherently.
Fly Over Country
And so, we come back to the beginning, after having discussed fiction, non-fiction, bullshit biographies (and AUTO-biographies), and travel; and the lack thereof to inspire me to do and/or write anything terrific. Instead– I write believable and matter of fact, down to earth commentary. It’s not terrific, and it’s not always super-exciting. BUT- it is true to life, at least to my life, and to me that is often times the only life I am able or willing to give enough thought to that would warrant a word written.
I write about me, and through this; I hope that the reader (because we all speak some kind of Universal language of understanding , can see a part of him or herself through the mirror of my words. Think back and remember when the last really memorable experience was for you? I’ll bet that even if you took that “dream vacation” to Oahu, the more memorable experiences, and ones which are most easily related, occurred somewhere in you geographic or mental comfort zone. And that’s … O.K.!
A vacation is meant to unwind and relax you. Very often, once we return to our normal lives, large parts of the trip are immediately forgotten, and we might remember a nice restaurant, or the beach. Even if you remember the glass bottom dolphin boat ride, I will wager that this is hardly inspiring enough for even 500 good words to be placed on paper because of it.
We write what we know. I don’t understand or agree with the term “fly over country” (in part because I live within it), and aside from geography, don’t know much about the opposite sides of that territory. I understand why those who live on the coasts might call where I was born “fly over country”, but I still don’t like the term, and it is my home, whether I am there or not. Like Steinbeck, I write about my home town in #Indiana (or at least my version of it), while I’m in California. And that, is the injustice of it all. As young people, many of us spend so much time and effort trying to literally uproot ourselves and spread the tangled mess of what is left of our heritage to the four winds, hoping that THIS will produce some type of inspiration. In reality, it weakens whatever good thoughts which may have been lurking under our surface of impatience, and leads down a pathway of non-inspiration and by proxy– non-productivity.
And so, travel is nice; however, I must not depend on it for any kind of boost in my literary efforts. If anything, it will simply remind me of where I came from, and will then make those, non-fiction memories, that much stronger, and more easily read and related to. This– an honesty in purpose and in writing, is the key. Sky miles are well… Sky miles; and I’ve never read a Pulitzer Prize winner about simply “going places”. Places should always mean something, and when they don’t… they’re just places… places where one doesn’t really belong.