Where Writing Is A Journey Which May Or May Not End Up In A Karaoke Bar

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.

Expect Delays

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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19 comments on “Where Writing Is A Journey Which May Or May Not End Up In A Karaoke Bar

  1. So happy to find you here Amanda! Love this post, such a great metaphor for the writing life!

  2. […] year of blogging! And today I’m excited to be a guest blogger at his place with my post, Where Writing Is A Journey Which May Or May Not End Up In A Karaoke Bar. So if you have a moment, please visit and comment over there, and then make sure you look around […]

  3. Ollin says:

    What a fun way to explore the intersection between writing and life! These are all important lessons and great reminders. I especially like “overcoming jet lag.” It often feels that way when we’ve overworked ourselves or lost sleep over our manuscript or writing career. Sometimes we just need to rest and recuperate!

    Thanks so much for dropping by the C2C Amanda!

    • Thanks for having me, Ollin! I could have gone on and on with this one — there really are so many connections that can be made to the writer’s life. Luckily for you, I showed some restraint.😉

  4. Conor Ebbs says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Insightful, genuine, and funny. Thank you.🙂

    I really like the last line: “You will “arrive”. And then you’ll start over again.” I think it is hugely important to realise that the journey requires daily travelling, steps forward, side-steps, mis-steps and sometimes even steps backwards.

    I always see it like this: The words are chasing me. They won’t stop until I write them down. They won’t let me sleep. Give them life and they will give you life.

    Thank you for a wonderful post.

    Conor

    • Thank you, Conor! Yes, the journey never ends — even for those on the bestseller list.

      “Give them life and they will give you life.” I think you have something there.

  5. Jarvis says:

    Everything a writer lives contributes to his or her writing, which is the best thing about writing. It takes amazing experiences to provide a great writer with great material. Unlike other gigs, you must go out and see the world to really do your best work.

  6. Christina says:

    Thanks so much Amanda for this great post!

    I’m curious – have you set a novel in Wales, or based characters on any of your Welsh friends?

    • Hi Christina — I’ve written a couple of short stories that have characters based on some my housemates, but they are all currently banished to “the drawer.” We’ll see if I ever dig them out again. Thanks for reading!

  7. Maggie says:

    Funny stuff! I’m experiencing a delay right now. Great to know I’m not alone🙂

  8. Marvin says:

    Great post! Very Inspiring, a no-quit attitude I wish I could get a better handle on.

  9. Great analogy! “Hurry up and wait” is one I struggle with. I’m impatient, but writing takes time. I’m trying to overcome a delay right now, and hopefully it’s back on track soon! (just hope my luggage isn’t lost LOL)

    • I’m impatient, too. Unlike some writers, I love querying and submitting work, so the time it takes to finish a piece or make that query sing often frustrates me. Because, yes…writing takes time!

      I also hope you don’t lose your luggage! Thanks for reading Theresa.

  10. Rai Rose says:

    Wow… what a perfect analogy, Amanda! I love traveling and I am obsessed with writing, so this analogy really spoke to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to provide this as a wonderfully motivating resource. I will definitely be returning to this post in the future.

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