16 March 2011

Travel Writing

Here's the thing about life: you get only one crack at it.

As much as I once wanted to, I have never been able to rewind to earlier in my life and start over with all the things I know now.  I could be so great by now if only I knew then what I know now!

In ShortThat's a bit how I'm feeling about my travel writing class.  This is a three credit course that will count toward my English teaching major for which I am planning to make a contract for my time in India.  When I first went in to talk to my professor about this course, I didn't know there was such a thing as creative non-fiction.  I mean, really?  In my mind, creativity belongs with my all-time favorites, Nancy Drew and Harry Potter.  Carolyn Keene and J.K. Rowling are creative.  Who even thinks of being creative when writing some boring non-fiction book about rocks?

What I didn't realize is that you actually can be creative and still tell true stories!  What's more, I've done this very thing!  For my freshman writing class last year I wrote a personal essay that I thought was pretty good (which is why I was upset about the A-).  The frame story was my eighteenth birthday party, when two of my best friends sang Ben Jelen's "Come On" to me with the entire crowd watching and my daddy filming.  I added flashback memories within the frame to illustrate my friendship with one of those boys.

Fast forward to today, nearing the end of my second year of college.  I don't read books for pleasure anymore because I don't have the time.  I left my books at home because I knew that I'd be tempted to escape from my responsibilities by sneaking away with a book, as I've often done in my life.

I've never considered myself much of a writer though I write a great deal.  I used to fill pages in my notebook with my thoughts when I needed to understand what was happening in my head.  I called them mental vomits. I would write similar things in my journal every night.  If you were to open that notebook you'd also find a fair amount of poetry and . . . unique prose.  I don't do any of that anymore.

I write one sentence in my journal every night.  Sometimes two.

I write lots of academic papers.

And I write long letters to my friends.

I guess I write blog posts too, but I don't know that I've really written anything profound on here.

I am not even sure what I am trying to say in this post.  Maybe I've just grown up too fast!  I am still a teenager for five more months, yet I've left behind many things that I loved in my childhood.

But, for the sake of finishing by the deadline, I will end my soul searching and be responsible again.  This travel writing class will be an excellent path to cultural immersion while I am living in India this summer.  I will keep a regular journal of my experiences abroad and write longer reflections every two weeks.  I will focus on what I've read (out of a large selection of travel literature--I want to read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own because I love Virginia Woolf!) and on what I've experienced.  These are short memoirs that I will use to write my final personal essay, 10-15 pages that I'll finish within a month of returning home.  I will thus be analyzing my life in India and seeking to draw personal meaning from my experiences there.  It is just as important to learn from cultural immersion as it is to complete a research project and honors thesis.

And maybe I'll find part of myself, too.  That little girl part of me who loves to read and writes long, profound prose simply for the sake of understanding herself and her world.

I would like to record a series of potentially uninteresting thoughts.
Living numbs the soul.  The energies and instinctive happiness of the human spirit are sadly dissolving in this world.

I began a journal entry that way when I was fifteen.  Now I begin every entry with the same cookie-cutter phrase.

Deadline is in three minutes and I think I'd better stop.

Photo credit Starbuck Guy


  1. You should post some of your work! I'd love to read it!

    I'm so glad that you are taking this class in the field. It was by far one of the best I have ever taken. Now if I can just find a creative nonfiction class for myself...

  2. Oh dear, I don't think that's a good idea :) I am not a writer.

    Do you need help finding a professor? I can certainly try to help you! I'm sure I don't have more contacts than you, but perhaps different ones.

  3. I think the travel writing class can be such a great complement to a great many different projects (not just the English-major related ones). Not only was it a chance to develop as a writer (and you're easily a better writer than me), but also to give some focused thinking to some unexplored aspects of my experience. What reality was I really participating in through my field studies? What does it mean to try and represent a meaningful truth about these experiences? Whose truth is it? It was such a challenging class for me, but made such a valuable wrap-up for three field visits.