Ask An Amateur Travel Writer: Why Do We Write?
One of my more recent posts concerned the question, “What do you think makes great travel writing?” Hopefully, I was able to best divulge my opinion on the matter. However, as I was writing that post I left out the very important answer to a necessary follow-up question, “Why do you travel write?”
For me, the answer is an exceptionally simple one: I have to. If you are a writer, then you already know you are. Being a writer doesn’t mean you’ve been published somewhere, it doesn’t mean you are able to string a few elegant words together, or that you know how to use alliteration to create rhythm in your writing. Being a writer fundamentally means that you write (pardon the tautology but I think that very basic premise is often forgotten). Personally, I could sit at a keyboard for an entire day and possibly only get a few sentences worth of what I deem as worthy writing onto the page (and possibly not even a few sentences). As many writers know, unless you are a prolific writer (and if you are I equally hate and admire you…), then you are left to sudden bursts of creativity. At certain times creativity lays upon your mind like a leaf falling onto still water, at other times it’s an explosive, fleeting moment that feels like lassoing a tornado. As a person who writes as I travel, writing is a whimsical compulsion that drags me to the side of a road while I’m on a bike ride so that I can pull out my phone and jot some notes into it. Writing is watching the mannerisms of the man yelling at the Tuk-tuk driver so that those small behavioral nuances can be carefully re-examined later. Writing is an acute awareness of the smells in the air as you walk around Machu Picchu, or the change in taste of a Coca Cola after the African sun has spent the day dehydrating you.
In more brief terms, travel writing is noticing not just a place in time, but also all the nuances it hides, and then having no choice but to share them in any way you can. I think that pertains to everyone from the magazine writer, to the weekly blogger, to the person keeping a personal journal.
If you are a writer, whether a good one or a bad one, the need for writing will be similar to the need for eating (I was going to say breathing, but let’s not get overly dramatic). So, keep writing whatever it is you feel compelled, just keep writing.