March 7th 2016
Day one in London and the Cotswolds, Southwest England
We arrived at Heathrow International airport on Virgin Airlines painfully early Monday morning. The flight was perhaps the smoothest ride I’ve ever traveled via plane, six hours in total. As we landed, I remember spotting the giant ferris wheel made popular by the Sherlock opening credits, and that was when it hit me: we’re actually in England!
In the first article of this blog post special, I discussed the ridiculously awesome opportunity I had to travel to England, Scotland, and Ireland for an entire month with my family. During that time, I visited the homes of the Greats like Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Robert Burns, and more.
Walking across the very land that inspired their writing and learning how their famous works of fiction came to life, truly motivated me as a writer. I was fascinated with their lives and how the the land they lived in inspired unforgettable classics we as readers still hold dear today. I began to view the world with a romance I thought I had lost, and my writing blossomed as a result.
I kept a daily journal during my journey. I didn’t want to forget a single memory made, but really, the fire inside me was raging, and as Charlotte Bronte once put it so perfectly, “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it”.
With that determination in mind, each day was a new and exciting challenge. My eyes scoured the sites with the excited energy of a vacuum “hoovering” up any minuscule detail it could devour (wow, my choice in metaphor. Thanks England).
I found that the world still had magic; a magic I had learned to ignore or dismiss in my everyday environment back home in the states.
March 7th 2016
The Cotswolds, Southwest England
The sights, the endless valleys of green, sprinkled with stone farms, grazing sleepy sheep, and homes older than America’s founding were all so magical to behold. The narrow streets bleed out into tiny veins of villages where the old stone buildings look like they’re all playing Twister with the same small patch of land. But it’s so charming, so incredibly enchanting: the folks walking their dogs- loyal farm hands -the children properly dressed in school uniforms, horses and riders taking the cramped roads home, the grandfatherly pubs butting elbows with tea rooms- well it’s a perfect potion luring us into a fantasy world of endless charm. Six hours of sleep deprivation, but I cannot possibly sleep when I’m already dreaming.
I felt like a reporter, writing feverishly as we traveled. Everything was fuel for the muse, from the cobblestone paths to the centuries old churches and castles. I found that I was utilizing more senses than I usually do when I write. I realized that before this trip, I piddled down to a use of two senses in my writing, at most. But this experience reawakened the use of all five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. I was eager to relay my findings to the page, as though my journal was a best friend I couldn’t take on my journey along with me.
Something as simple as drinking tea with scones and clotted cream became nearly a religious experience. Because I wanted to capture the pure essence of the experience, I found I enjoyed the heavenly food even more for the sake of perfecting the journal entry about it later. But if there’s any muse more inspiring than clotted cream and scones, I don’t care to know about it. I’d prefer to stay in clotted cream ignorance. (I’m sure you understand)
March 9th, 2016
We visited one of the oldest tea rooms in the area, aptly named “Hathaway’s Tea Room” after Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife. We shared a thoroughly enjoyable meal of cream tea, which I’ve learned is scones with homemade jam as sweet as a summer day and clotted cream so smooth and creamy it forever changed my relationship with butter (fyi, butter and I are no longer on speaking terms). Along with these delights came individual teapots with our choice of steaming hot tea. Mine was the house tea, “Hathaway blend”, and I will say it was the discovery of a lifetime. This warm and gentle mix of perfectly sweet leaves were striking on the palate but settled smooth on the tongue like melting honey. It was like drinking a cashmere blanket. Enjoying Hathaway’s blend with warm, crumbly scones in Hathaway’s tea room in Stratford-Upon-Avon while reading Quotable Shakespeare is certainly the most “English” thing I’ve ever done. I could get used to this!
If we look at every experience we have in our lives as though it is the last we will ever have, our senses are suddenly eager to indulge in the details. When we willingly submerge our senses in an interaction as simple as our daily run to get our cup of coffee, we find that it becomes an inspired event. Our brain is switched to experience rather than undergo. And that is when our writing changes from something the reader will undergo, to a vivid story the reader will experience.
Likewise, we lose an innate sense of fear when we write in a journal. Knowing, or at least believing, that we will be the only person to ever read these passages opens that last barricade to absolute freedom of expression. I found that I lost myself in the pages as I wrote and out came a side of my writing I was incredibly happy and comfortable with. It was a healing release.
March 11th, 2016
Yorkshire, Central England
We (more specifically, I) woke up late. 11:00 to be exact. Holy cow, I can’t remember the last time I slept so long. What is the bed made of? Baby Griffin feathers? Probably. Off we rushed to explore the 500 year-old Bolton Abbey. The ancient structure sat atop a large plain, overlooking an active river like a king surveying his land. Dogs roamed happily and freely (very common here, I hardly ever see leashes), children skipped stones across the wild river and devoured vanilla-flavored, farm-fresh ninety-nines. Going through the old, mossy, cracking stone ruins crumbling away yet desperate to keep its form, was something to behold. Within the walls it was serene, yet teemed with intrigue. Lacking a roof, we got a breath-taking glimpse of the gray sky passing idly above us. The ancient Abbey stood dignified, glorious, and idealistic in its gradual descent into ruin. I only hope I can age just as majestically.
My travels actually inspired me to write a short story, a work of fiction with a theme relative to the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen’s famous works. I just couldn’t help it. The land, the history, the people, the overall experience begged for a new story to be unfurled. This short story, in fact, will be added to a brand new book of short stories I’ve collaborated over the past year, and am eager to publish in the upcoming months!
Keeping a journal with you wherever you go opens up the opportunity to let a moment capture you. Sometimes we pass something in our daily routine and it leaves a spark of intrigue in our minds. We write something fascinating about it in our heads, but hours later when we finally have a chance to actually write it down on paper, we forget the specifics of that great moment. So keeping a small pocket journal by your side allows every moment to be the next possible inspired journal entry.
Granted, some of us don’t have a chance to leave our homeland and travel hundreds of miles away to refresh our senses. But we don’t have to travel thousands of miles to find inspiration. When we urge ourselves to find extraordinary in the ordinary, we allow our writing to revolutionize in the same way. Before this journey, I gave myself easy excuses allowing my writing to wane. I wasn’t “feeling it”, I wasn’t “inspired by anything”, I was “bored of my surroundings”, I “lacked desire “. I was guilty of all those thoughts. But I realized how beautiful my home was when I returned to it.
Keeping a daily journal reawakened the passion for the everyday. Suddenly the simple was incredible, all because I had the opportunity no one else had: to tell my story from my point of view, in my own environment. You have that opportunity as well. Don’t forsake it to easy excuses!
Take the time to get to know your own backyard. Walk around in the park you’ve passed a thousand times. Grab a green tea latte instead of your regular Espresso, sit down, and watch people, at your regular coffee stop. Take a blanket and have a sit down in the nearby patch of open land. Drink in every single angle of your experience. And then bleed onto the page. You’ll find that your writing will grow more vivid and your voice will mature. Keep a daily journal that records the ordinary. When you look back, you’ll be surprised to find an extraordinary story. And your readers too will notice a difference, the next time you publish a work of fiction.
March 19th, 2016
Loch Ness, Highlands, Scotland
There’s an innate sensation that occurs when you step foot onto the land your soul is meant to thrive in. It feels so very much like the moment you realize you’ve found the person you’re supposed to be with- your soul mate- the person you’ve fallen hopelessly in love with. And you know from that day forward, your spirit will wilt every moment you are apart from him. And so I worry, and desperately suppress, the nagging feeling that when I leave this place, I will also leave my heart behind. I will bury it in this wild, endless valley and wait impatiently for the day I can return to reap it. And because I put this love affair on hold, because it fills my body with butterflies I cannot possibly ignore, I have only these words to remember it by. I have only these memories to reminisce.
Tell a story, not a play-by-play. When every day is seen as the next journal entry, your entire being will engage with the experience. Your passion will grow, and your writing voice will be felt deeply by the reader. And that is the goal we all want to achieve! Try this tactic, and I promise your writing will thank you for it.
Well how about you, dear reader? Was there a life changing experience you had which forever changed the way you write? Have you written in a daily journal and reaped the benefits it offered? Tell me your story. I want to hear it! Tell me in the comments section below one unique writing trick that forever changed how you tell stories.