I chose this book for very personal reasons.
I’ve been so busy in recent years that I’d pretty much given up my journaling.
I haven’t written anything that I felt was meaningful in a long time.
Oh sure, I keep trip notes, pickup brochures and literature, and take photos when I travel, but I’ve allowed tight schedules and busy agendas to pull me out of the habit of writing down what means the most to me – my thoughts and feelings about a place or experience.
Just as I was thinking to myself how much I missed it, and wanted to get back to it – across my radar screen came “Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler“, by Lavinia Spalding.
It’s not a travel writing book, and not a guide to writing – it won’t teach you how to write, or how to write better. What it will do is help you learn how to develop good journaling skills, how to observe and think more about what you’re doing, and to record it in ways that reflect your experience beyond just jotting down facts and numbers.
This is a skill that every writer should master – especially those who want to be travel writers, where the details are important to other travelers, but more importantly, being able to paint a picture with your words, as you relate the experiences of your travels, will enrich your writing.
I could very easily relate to Ms. Spalding’s struggles with learning to focus – often I like to blame my lack of focus on my workload, when in fact it’s generally the result of a condition I suffer from, which we jokingly call “shiny object syndrome” in my house – so I really appreciated her no-nonsense, one-size-does-NOT-fit-all approach to giving advice.
Also, I really enjoyed her storytelling method of teaching. It’s easy to see that Ms. Spalding has true talent as a writer – her words flow lyrically as she tells anecdotes about her life and upbringing to illustrate her points, allowing the reader to visualize the lesson, and yet, her lessons come across as comfortable as a conversation with a friend, rather than a textbook mandate, making them as easy to consume as your favorite snack.
I particularly love the chapter on ‘journal prompts’ – even great writers sometimes need a gentle nudge into the recesses of their creativity, and a few words can work magic for helping our words take flight. I know that sometimes when my brain seems frozen, a prompt gets it rebooted, even if I go in an entirely different direction.
What Could Be Better:
More stories! More tips! More prompts! As with most things I read, I always want more, I never feel satiated.
Okay, if I really must pick one thing to pick on, it would be that I disagree with the author’s stance on lined journals (she doesn’t like them, I do)….decades spent typing have turned my handwriting into something worse than a doctor’s and only slightly better than chicken-scratching, so lines on the paper give me some sub-conscious sense of obligation to write more legibly – sure, I ignore the lines like everyone else does, but I still need to see them there.
I honestly loved this book and have already starting writing again – for myself, just as practice and to get back into the flow of it.
Anyone who wants to either start journaling, or who thinks that maybe they could be doing it better, should really read this book. Often I give books away, but this is one that I’ll keep – and refer back to – for quite some time.
Do you keep a journal? How do you stay inspired to stick with it?