Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Historian

I’ve read lots of essays about why people write and they often start with something about how the writer couldn’t survive without writing, how it’s what keeps their soul alive and that they’ve been a writer as long as they can remember.

When I read stuff like this I feel like an imposter. As a kid, I wrote because teachers made me do it. Luckily I was good at it without trying, which boosted my not-so-great confidence and I grew to like writing.

I fell into my writing career almost by accident. After college I went through a phase of wanting to ditch the over-intellectual life and learn to use my hands. This (and some romance) lead me to a black pearl farm on a very remote atoll in the South Pacific where I spent days scraping sea goo off of oysters or cooking meals for up to 20 hungry men. I got pregnant, had babies and devoted all my waking energy beyond farm work towards raising my kids. 

I kept a journal through this time, logging my adventure but unfortunately its contents would never make it beyond the atoll. In a very dramatic, small-island crazed turn of events the farm manager stole my journal and burned it which, paired with other equally deranged events, made my family realize it was time to move on. It wasn’t until I lost my writing and the details of my five years of experiences, that I realized I was a writer. The second we moved to Tahiti and got an internet connection I started sending out articles. When I told my stories and published them they would stay safe and alive  -- I didn't want my history or anyone else's to go up in smoke again, so to speak.

I’ve now been a full-time professional guidebook and travel writer for nine years. I officially have the writing bug but I’m still not that person who would die if I couldn’t write. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and need to write something that’s brewing in my head, but if you took writing away from me for a month I’d see it more as a vacation than anything else (I work too much!). It’s important to me to have correct grammar but I care far more about creating a unique metaphor that instills a sense of place than about details like the Oxford comma. I can’t spell to save my life.

I write because it’s my vehicle to tell stories and to share information that I’m passionate about. The art is lovely but to me it’s secondary. Research and discovery excite me more than getting it all on paper, but once I get to the writing part, I take pride in doing it well. When I’m in the groove I dote on the shape of words, the cadence of a sentence and how the mix of it all can run away until it disappears into a dream world. So I guess, in a way, art follows the adventure and I appreciate the time it gives me to process information and to look for the stories hidden within it all.

Sometimes I feel like more of a historian than a writer. I don't "sit at the typewriter and bleed" (who said that?), I sit and and I recreate the places I've been and the characters I've met while telling an honest story. I come out of it with a stiff back and if things went well I'll have that same glow one gets when reading a good book.

In any case, I’m writing this because my friend Annika Hipple asked me to take part in a “blog hop,” where writers answer a few questions about their writing life. I am being a terrible blog hopper firstly because I’m not going to answer any of the questions beyond this first part and secondly because I’m not handing over the baton to another blogger. I blog for fun and I just got past the fun part.

But you really should head over to Annika’s blog, see what she wrote and find more links to why other writers write and what their writing process looks like. There’s an amazing range of stories.

You can see Annika’s post here.

And here's Annika's Bio -- she is very cool and has a diverse and flourishing freelance career (a rarity in this business):

Annika Hipple is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer specializing in travel, adventure, environment, sustainability, and history. She has contributed to a wide range of magazines, newspapers, and online media both in the U.S. and overseas. In addition, she helps travel companies and nonprofit organizations tell their stories through newsletters, website content, and other materials. A lifelong traveler, she grew up bilingual and bicultural, with two countries (the United States and Sweden) to call home. She has ridden a camel in the Gobi, braved the winds at Cape Horn, snorkeled with sharks in the Galapagos, ventured into ancient Egyptian tombs, tracked cheetahs on foot in Namibia, camped on a beach in the Ecuadorian Amazon, tubed through a cave filled with glowworms in New Zealand, and stood face-to-face with the massive moai heads of Easter Island. She blogs her travel photography on her website, www.annikahipple.com, publishes the Scandinavia travel website RealScandinavia.com, and is currently developing other blogging projects related to sustainable travel and history. Alongside her creative endeavors, Annika leads trips throughout the world as a tour manager and guide for a variety of travel programs.


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