It has been about 7 months since I got back from travelling around Western Europe, and a year and a quarter since I started writing this blog. My original motivations for maintaining this blog were to communicate my thoughts and observations as I travelled around to my family and friends; and to force myself to write something for others to read. It was about time to pull me out of the insulated world within my head and make me pay closer attention to the structure, clarity and purpose of what I write.
Before this blog, there was little outward sign of my writerly predilection. That wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that that I have a long history of writing and hoarding my writing.
The love affair with making mind, paper and mark-making tool work together began when I was quite young. At the age of 5 or so I was given a pretty little notebook, and in it I wrote a story about an orphan girl who was about to be adopted by a couple with nefarious intentions. This little girl was apparently the key to some secret piece of information that would help this couple get stinking rich. To this day I remember the feelings that were bubbling up inside as I “formulated” this story… Oooh they were bad, sneaky people but the little girl was smart! All the outside forces were against her, for the power of choice and decisionmaking was the province of adults only; and at the same time none of them felt enough personal relationship with her to care about how she saw things. Even the adults who were trying to do the best thing for her were in actual fact harming her (by allowing this bad couple to take her) because they just thought they could solve the problem their way.
Now if someone else were to read the story they perhaps wouldn’t be able to see THAT extent of subtext in it, I mean it’s not a story of any length or sophistication. I believe the story concludes something like ‘”No! I won’t go with you!”, and she ran far far away. The End.’ Something like that 😀 Which is interesting to reflect on – that I had this desire to convey ideas that came from thought processes much more complex than my self-expression. It’s so easy to forget that children can have a greater depth of understanding and insight than their language ability belies.
Or else you could simply say that this little girl had authority issues. Hmm… actually… kindergarten… yes. Yes I did have that feeling that adults were telling me what to do (mainly teachers) when they didn’t truly care about what was best for me or what I thought about things. In fact I left one kindergarten because I didn’t approve of the teacher’s dictates. Walked out at lunchtime and told my mum I was going to go to another one. Jeez it starts young and really keeps eh? Talk to the hand because the face don’t wanna hear.
As I got older I started to keep a diary. It’s a habit I continue to practise on and off throughout my life: some phases have seen me write continuously every day for 3 or 4 months, while others have seen me dipping in every week or two weeks. There are also chunks of months of complete nothing, because either I simply have not been in the mood or I’ve finished an old notebook and haven’t found a suitable successor. See there are certain criteria like it can’t be lined, it can’t have an annoying cover, it has to have pleasing paper, it has to have the shape I feel like at that given moment etc. etc. Yup, I am a freak, a freak who would wait months to find the right notebook rather than write entries in a diary that doesn’t feel like a friend. It is odd because my desire to write in a diary comes not only from a desire to write but from a desire to be close to a beloved cohort of paper. To the physical material itself?
As I got older yet I could not be confined to writing only in a discrete book and only in the privacy of my bedroom. It started out as musings and observations leisurely jotted down during class in high school. Maybe a teacher would make some offhand statement, which would then turn into kindling for a corner of my mind, making me feel forced to write down my reaction and to go on further to figure out why it had stirred me. Eventually less and less of this writing was in reaction to externally-inspired dilemmas and more to self-generated questions. At about the same time I felt a growing need to try and represent the natural world as I experienced it. I felt magic so easily, from the birds happy in the lightly rustling trees I had to walk by, to the relaxation of the somali refugee boy’s face into happiness after my smile of hello on the bus, through to the rushing king clouds who I felt were challenging me to a race through the park… Even on a simple, everyday return trip home from school there was so much to feel from the world. I felt compelled to express this magic, to be a sort of spokesperson for it. I wondered if other people felt it too.
Accompanying this desire to write throughout my life has been the desire to go out and do things alone. Aside from the fact that it enables me to focus attention solely on what I perceive going on around me, it also gifts me a satisfying amount of space and time to simply sit and write in a novel environment. Could be a park bench in Edinburgh, a bridge in Venice, or the banks of the river d’Aare. Most of the time in Europe I went with the cliche and stuck to cafes. It wasn’t something I deliberately set out to do every time I stopped for a cola cao or espresso; I quickly got addicted to the habit of getting the order through as early as possible so that I could focus on digging through my bag for clear space on a paper surface to write on. In the absence of a notebook or a small wad of corporate freebie paper, I would resort to the backs, sides, tops and bottoms of envelopes, old bank statements/letter from some governmental body, receipts. Once or twice a serviette but that’s true desperation talking. On the occasions when I truly had exhausted all my possibilities for white space I would ask friends if they had any paper to spare.
What this means is that now I possess multiple piles of paper scraps upon which ideas, “good sentences”, and evocative descriptions had been noted on the spur of innumerable moments. These organically created little heaps can be found at the bottom of my bags, in certain random boxes and folders, and possibly on the floor underneath and immediately adjacent to my bed. Occasionally I will rummage through a pile and be reunited with the original energy that first fueled that day’s frantic scribbling. Sitting on the floor with a smile on my face I’ll exclaim “Hey, this is still really good!”, or, “Oh I so have to use this sometime…. I have to, I have to!”, and honestly, my very sad admission is that I get a lot of enjoyment out of re-reading stuff I wrote during a flash of inspiration even two years ago. (There are scraps going back further than that of course.)
But No One Else EVER reads them. Or sees them. I honestly probably wouldn’t want anyone to without the writing being placed in some useful, fruitful context because well… without doing that there’s not much that separates me from a crazy person who distributes their ramblings out on the street. (I always take that stuff by the way. I like to try to see if I can decipher them, or if I can possibly get any insight into who this person is and what their life has been like. I haven’t succeeded so far but that could be due to those limiting, hard edges of my squareness.)
So now we finally get to why I’m writing this blog entry.
I still haven’t completely adjusted to and embraced blogging. Although it probably seems an obvious activity for me to do I am hampered by extreme perfectionism and an achievement-based way of approaching life. This would seem to account for my piles of unfulfilled ideas and inspiration, as well as the difficulty I have not merely maintaining a blog but rationalising having one in the first place. In the worst-case scenario it can take me months to get through a post, and then even afterwards I might sit there and ask myself “Er…. why am I doing this again?”
Well, because I have a problem. I cannot live a life surrounded by scraps of paper and squirreled-away notebooks. I mean, jeez really, I am a crazy woman.
So I’d like to say a big thank you to those of you who keep coming back in spite of my sporadic reinforcement, and who have told me that you have been entertained by some of what I have written. For better or worse, with travel stories for fodder or not, I will keep pushing myself to put writing up here.
I have a few more travel-related stories and observations from last year to write about and some working out of thinking about certain topics to put up as well. I still can’t say I quite know what the aim of this blog is, given that even as a “travel blog” it was never really a traditional travel blog. But so long as there are some people who get enjoyment from what I write, and I get benefit from doing my best, I’ll keep things as they are – a simple blog with no mission but expression. Ultimately the writing and the sharing I seriously enjoy. It’s the editing that kills me… oh, the editing.
On a related and science-geeky cool note, you can listen to what neuroscientist Alice Flaherty has to say about “hypergraphia”. Is feeling a strong compulsion to write a disturbance of the brain? The one thing I found the most interesting was how hypergraphia as seen in clinical cases was attributed to abnormality/damage within the amygdala – that famed emotion processing powerhouse of the brain.
I’d like to keep track of this one.