Editor’s Note: this is a guest post by Amanda Hoving of Amanda’s Wrinkled Pages.
When you’re a writer, you often hear comments about the mysterious “writer’s journey.” Made to sound like an epic passage of trial and tribulation (which, in many cases, it is), I always envision a careworn castaway sporting a knapsack and wielding an enormous pen as a walking stick. (Oh, and that someone often looks like Matt Damon. Hey–it’s my daydream.)
Still, I’ve found that I can equate writerly expeditions to a literal journey–one that I took my junior year in college when I decided to leave my Midwestern American cornfields for a semester in a lovely Welsh town near the sea. The journey I took was a long one–almost 24 hours in total because of connecting flights, missed transits, stalled trains, and uncooperative taxi-driver’s.
Here’s what I learned:
Pack The Essentials
I pre-shipped a twenty pound box of clothes, and lugged an oversized suitcase, two large-ish carry-on’s, and a mutant handbag onto the plane. It was…too much. As a writer, all you really need is a medium (paper, computer, bamboo leaves), a grasp of the rules of your language, and an idea. The idea is the essential, essential.
Be Confident When Traveling Solo
Just as I was my own best traveling buddy, so are you your own best writing partner. Yep, just you and yourself. And you. And yourself. You’re required to keep on keeping on even without a cheering section. It can be very lonely, so…
Ask For Assistance
As I scurried around Heathrow airport, I realized I had no idea where the buses were. A kind-hearted official took pity on me, and mapped out exactly where I needed to go. If you choose the writing life, you may also need help once in a while. Heck– you will need help. This is where online forums, local critique groups, and writing conferences become your lifeline.
Anticipate Missed Connections
Did I mention that my “helper” at the airport had quite the heavy accent? I misunderstood, and missed the bus. The writer’s journey is full of just missed opportunities: That query that elicits a “positive” rejection. The manuscript that gets a partial request, then a full, and then…nothing. A contest where you are a finalist, but not the winner. So, you try again and…
Hurry Up And Wait
I eventually caught the right bus to the train station. And then I waited. A looooong time. Being a writer requires an obscene amount of patience. You’re always waiting on something, whether it’s for a writing buddy to give you the green light, or for a response on a submission. You’re waiting for paychecks and edits, and your next breakthrough.
Enjoy The Scenery
But the writing life is not all about twiddling thumbs and pushing adverbs–there’s also new discoveries. I remember looking out the window during my train ride and thinking, Wow! I’m far from home. When you’re in that perfect writing state you’ll also be “far from home”–completely lost in your story.
But perfection never lasts long. My train was delayed mid-transit for a couple of hours. Though I don’t believe in writer’s block, I do believe in blips, stalls, and backward steps of a writing career that aren’t always under your control. Don’t worry — you’ll soon get moving again.
Beware Of Strangers
I was well-versed in staying away from suspicious types in order to arrive with my limbs and head securely attached. During your writing journey you’ll also need to steer clear of shady characters. There could be doubters, naysayers, and critics hiding in the shadows trying to divert you from your goals.
Overcome Jet Lag
I caught a cab from the train station, and (after a detour) finally made my way to my cozy little room. I was exhausted, and felt like I had run a marathon. Actually, I felt like I had won a marathon–just like when you finish a difficult draft. Celebrate those moments. And, then get your rest!
Fraternize With The Natives
I became very comfortable in my home away from home — so much, in fact, that I did something very uncharacteristic. I started singing karaoke. On my final night in Wales, the little pub we frequented hosted a contest. I belted out “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” Aretha Franklin-style, and won. If it wasn’t for that 40 pound prize, I wouldn’t have made it out of the country–it was exactly what I needed for the Departure Tax. With persistence and practice, you’ll become comfortable in the writing world, too. You’ll publish some. You will “arrive.” And then you’ll start all over again.
Enjoy the trip!
Are there other ways that your real-life journey is like your writer’s journey? What obstacles have you come across in your writing life?
Amanda Hoving writes for children and adults in publications like American Girl, Highlights for Children, Onboard, and Writer’s Digest. She’s currently at work on a couple of novels, and blogs about the reading and writing life at
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