If you're itching to travel, but don't yet have a destination in mind, might I make a recommendation? (Of course I might. You know me. I totally WILL.)
How about taking a literary trip? Go on a pilgrimage: Visit an author's home, a place where So-and-so penned their famous novels.
If you want a bunch of suggestions to get you ridiculously inspired, pick up this book: Novel Destinations. You'll have a zillion ideas at your fingertips, and you can do a bit of armchair traveling in the meantime.
Going on a literary trip just might change how you think of yourself as a writer.
Well, for starters, the things that we celebrate have a way of shaping us.
So, if you're having trouble in your writing, or if you're having a hard time accepting the writing life, it might be really good for you to seek out another writer's haunts.
To celebrate the books they wrote, all the words they put to paper over the years, the gift their work was to so many people.
You know? Whip your book-loving heart into a frenzy. Take a tour of a few writerly sites.
And celebrate!! Let your word nerd out.
And as you value all the work that this Famous Author did, let your respect for them nourish your relationship with your own writing. When you're standing there, let it hit you: How hard they worked. How long their haul was. The obstacles they overcame.
Kinda like how hard you are working. How long your haul is. The obstacles that you have overcome; the obstacles that you will overcome. The gift that your words are to others.
Celebrate their words. And as you're doing that, celebrate the writing life in general.
And your writing life especially.
So, go to the places where they wrote.
That's step one.
Here's step two--and stick with me, because it's a little paradoxical:
Notice how ordinary these sites are.
Can I say that?
Obviously there are some exceptions. Sure. But for the most part: we're talking about some pretty normal-looking places.
Have you ever had this experience:
You're exploring a historical site, or yes, an author's writing place. And you smile around at all the details that your guide is pointing out, or you're dutifully reading brochures and placards.
And then this voice in you rises up to say, UM, it's just an old house? Or, it's just another room? Or, I've seen plenty of old places by now, is this any different?
You look at the view that inspired so many stories, and you think, Sure, it's nice, but it's just trees and some distant hills...?
And of course, we try to shut that voice up. It sounds ungrateful and rude and unappreciative. Uncultured.
... And I actually can't believe I just blogged about it. I really hope I'm not the only one who reacts this way. Please don't throw things at me.
Because I think that voice has a really good point.
It's easy to start thinking that other writers, famous writers, have stuff that we don't.
We immortalize them in our minds, enshrine them. Maybe without even realizing it.
So it's easy to start thinking that the place where they wrote will be amazing, in some way. That it will carry some kind of power, some forceful inspiration. We might start thinking, If only I had a place like that--then I could write.
When I was traveling in England, I stood outside the door of one of Jane Austen's residences in Bath. (For some reason, we couldn't go inside--I think it was already closed for the day or something.)
But I stared up at it and thought, Well, it's beautiful and all, but spoiler alert, ALL of Bath is beautiful. At that point in the trip, it looked just like all the other doors.
Same thing happened when I saw the room where C.S. Lewis worked in Cambridge. It didn't have golden light pouring out of it, no fauns sticking their heads out and waving, no lions roaring. It was another window, like all the rest, looking down at this peaceful little courtyard (which was definitely lacking an eternal winter). Like all the rest.
There's no magic in the places where they lived--however inspiring they may have or have not been. There's no special spark we can soak up.
And that is exactly my point.
We are the magic! We're the special spark! You, my lionhearted writing friend! You, and your crazy imagination and all the things you care about, all the stuff in you that turns into stories somehow. You're the magic. And so am I.
These places inspired these writers because they were working. Because they kept at it.
In spite of dreary weather and long struggles and not enough money and lots of interruptions.
Even if you'd like to argue that these writers had genius: well, genius doesn't write books.
It has to be disciplined, it still has to put in the time, and it has to fight against all those other character flaws that come with genius.
So let's be done with the kind of thinking that says: they could, but not me.
Let's just LET THAT GO.
Okay? Can we agree to that?
So here's the plan: Go find a famous writer's famous writing site. Go visit.
And when you stand where that Famous Writer stood, go ahead and feel the rush. Connect to your writing life in a good way. Celebrate!
Celebrate the writers that came before you, who inspired you. And celebrate the writer that you already are.
Then let yourself see how ordinary it is. Even if their ordinary is different from your ordinary: notice that it isn't actually magic, however lovely or peaceful or chaotic or colorful or whatever.
And step three, the kicker:
Find a little bench, a curb, some place to sit.
And write something.
It's the perfect culmination of your visit! It celebrates and honors the Famous Writer. It celebrates and honors the Writing You. And at the same time it says, this isn't a shrine. It is a place where writing happened, and where writing will keep on happening.
It can just be notes of the place where you're sitting. It can be a record of whatever the guide just said. It can be describing how totally inspiring/uninspiring the place itself is.
Or maybe it will be the start of a new project. An unexpected scrap of poetry that makes your fingers tingle. An essay that captures a little shard of your heart.
Or hey. I'm a big dreamer: Maybe it's the seed of the novel idea that will, one day, bring hundreds and thousands of people to visit your stomping grounds.
Yeah. That's what I thought.