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Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

I travel a lot and, while travel is a favoured pastime, you only have to read a few of the blogs on wordpress to realise that we all have our own unique travel style.

My own travel style has changed over the years. When I started travelling in South America back in 2006 it was as a typical backpacker – bussing from attraction to attraction, staying in backpacker dorm rooms, reading my Footprint guide each night over dinner, and seeing the must see sights.

Valle de la Luna in Argentina was one of the most amazing places I ever visited; and almost tourist-free.

But as the months wore on it felt like something was missing from the experience. I got tired of only talking to other travellers and always in English. It seemed ridiculous to be so far from home and meeting the same people that were staying at the backpackers down the road from my house back home. It was also depressing how many longer-term travellers (myself included) were failing to master the local language. I wanted to meet real Argentineans, Peruvians, Brazilians, what have you; to get to know the latin cities from an insiders’ perspective. Then one day a friend emailed me the link for Couchsurfing and, after overcoming my initial doubts and giving it a try, I was hooked.

Soon, after months on the road, many box-checking sights (cathedrals, museums, ruins, and such) started to blur together. For a while I kept visiting these places out of a sense of duty and a fear of missing out but eventually my tourist budget was reserved for the must sees and my favoured activities became meandering through back streets and talking to strangers in plazas.

I met Ibrihim on the banks of the Seine, where he was living rough. He gave me a full-day tour of Paris

Once I started staying with locals and chatting with people in public places (bus stops, plazas, cafes) my notebook began filling up with inside tips about the best places to eat, the most beautiful spots, and where to find the dustiest, back-alley bookshops. Most of these tips were not in the guidebook, so I stopped referring to it except for emergencies. Eventually it became surplus to requirements and took up too much space and weight in my backpack so it was abandoned in a hostel.

Over the years my travel style has evolved, become more fluid. I try not to plan too much, look for out-of-the-way spots, and while I have still visited a lot of big sights – Iguazu Falls, the Bolivian Saltflats, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, the Alhambra, the TATE Modern, Antigua, etc. – I have come to realise that there is a lot more to see than you realise and that if you stick to the big stuff you may miss all the tiny details that give a place its personality.

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I’m feeling tense. Here I am, writing my memoirs, and I keep jumping between present and past tense as I write. I know that just won’t do but I can’t decide which one feels right. I like the immediacy of the present tense, but I would have to re-write my beginning (which begins at the end, so to speak) in order to use it. (Let’s face it though, I’m going to have to re-write a LOT either way.)

If I don't decide on a tense soon my head might explode, and then there'd be brains all over my manuscript

Is anyone else having this problem?

I would really appreciate some advice from the more seasoned writers amongst us – I have no real training in writing per se so I am lost when it comes to all this. I just write on instinct, but that seems to be failing me on this one. (Actually, as I just wrote that I realised it wasn’t strictly true. I had decided to write in the past tense but, as I am writing, I keep slipping into the present-tense style that feels more natural. Does that mean that I should be writing in the present? Or is it just that I am a schizophrenic or undisciplined writer?)

Can I write in the present tense and still allude to future events or realisations? Or is that only possible if I write in past tense, and hence from a position of hindsight?

Are the rules so important in writing? Can I break them if I want to? Don’t you know I have a problem with authority? Aaaaaaaagggghhhh! I really am getting tense about my tense.

Help please!

By the by, I just read an interesting little article by Marg McAlister about cutting back the use of “I” in your first person writing (which will no doubt be a major focus of my editing process).

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I’ve been writing a lot lately. A lot. I think having a blog is helping. Encouraging myself to write on a more regular basis was one of the reasons I started this blog and it seems to be working.

Blog City

For a while I was worried that having a blog would simply be a distraction from my “real” writing but I’m not really finding that to be the case. Quite the opposite, in fact. I should probably add “having a blog” to my recent list of things that inspire me to write.

Progress on my travel memoirs is slow but steady. I have set myself the goal of 500 words a day. It might not sound like much but I find that if the goal is much higher I get scared away and don’t even want to start. While it feels like chipping away at a huge block, the sculpture is starting to take shape and that feels great.

I spoke about making choices recently. I’ve made my current twist-a-plot decision and I start my new job on Monday. I hope that my recent writing momentum will continue once the 9-to-5 enters the equation once more.

How do others find the time to write around their full-time jobs? And does anyone else find that having a blog keeps them inspired to write regularly?

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Do you remember those twistaplot books for kids? You know, the ones where the protagonist (and reader) would reach a critical junction in the narrative and must make a choice about how to react or choose which next step to take. Depending on the decisions made the narrative would unfold in various directions, more choices would be offered, more paths taken, until you reached one of several pre-determined endings. Don’t you think life is kind of like that?

The eternal question: where do I want to go?

Today I am facing my own twistaplot decision point – I have been offered two roles at two great organisations and now I must choose between them. Great, right? Well, yes, I am in a pretty lucky position. But at the same time it is hard – what if I choose badly and live to regret it? The truth is I am an eternal optimist and am fairly confident that, whatever I choose in life, it will work out well, or at least that I will make the best of it.

It got me thinking though, don’t you think it would be cool if life, like a twistaplot, allowed for re-reads and new decisions and experimenting until you found the narrative outcome you most desired? That would be cool. The living life, unlike the writing life, does not allow for rewrites (well, I guess it does, but not easily). Maybe that is what makes it so thrilling to be alive, making blind decisions and hoping for a happy ending.

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