The other day I escaped the DIY clean-up operations at home and met up with sweet Zoe again at our favourite hang, the Dial Arch. Since we last saw each other, it had been made clear that I had read and been influenced by male journalist travel writers only, and was obviously not being as honest and authentic in my writing as I should, so Zoe had put me on Eat, Pray, Love duty. It was a bit of an eye opener, and I realised that I’m not a dry, witty, researching journalist type writer, but more of an emotional observer and analytical explorer. While I’ve been reading Liz Gilbert (not without shame – always making sure to hide the book cover when reading in public, and feeling extremely silly for doing so), the USA book has faded away to be revisited at a later time, because I think the tale of my first backpacking trip is eager to be born first. She will be the elder sibling, the laying down of the foundation. That was when I was all alone for five months and truly had to face myself and all the ugly stuff inside, as well as the beautiful treasures and surprising resources I found within me. I feel like if I figure out the arc of that first journey, then I will be able to see the shape of the second one. This might be how it wants to happen.
Anyhow, Zoe got stuck in traffic so I ordered a black coffee and sat down to write. I opened the USA book and nothing came. I couldn’t even look at it. So I opened a blank document and began writing about the first trip, and before long my heart was pounding hard in my chest as the words positively poured out of me. I must have looked like a lunatic, staring intently at the screen and mouthing words as I wrote dialogue, my face contorting along with the emotions that arose with the words. When the barman came to pick up my coffee mug I was so buzzy I couldn’t speak to him.
“You done with your coffee?” he asked and began to clean up.
I surprised myself by shouting “Yes please!” and went on to stammer something about how I would order another coffee but will wait for friend because sorry just really into this!
I wrote 2,000 words in the hour it took Zoe to get there, and by the time she arrived I was out of breath and trembling. I’ve been very pleased with certain parts of the USA book, but never has the process of writing felt like that – it has more been like carefully assembling an IKEA corner desk, whereas this was more like a child let loose with oil paints.
I pounded out 3,000 more words that afternoon, and I think it’s actually quite good – but the verdict will come at the Greenwich Writers’ meetup next week. My stomach turns thinking about it.