Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Be a traveler, not a tourist.

I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I first heard it while watching Anthony Bourdain salivate over roasted pork cheeks at a hole in the wall restaurant on one of his excursions. As a side note: Do yourself a favor. Find a properly prepared pig cheek and eat it. I first had them in Cour-Cheverny, France—heaven on a plate. Actually that’s not a side note, it applies directly to where I’m going. We found a tiny restaurant, in a small village, in the Loire Valley. There wasn’t a tourist in sight, because we were traveling.

I’ve considered this post for some time because I didn’t want to come off snarky or pretentious. I still might, but at least I’ve thought about my snarkyness. It all started when I read a well-meant blog about the difficulties of becoming or being a writer. The rejection you face, the thick skin you have to grow, the deadlines to meet, how you have to embrace Hemingway’s “sit at a typewriter and bleed” mindset, that if you can do anything else, do it. You have probably read similar blogs or articles. As I read, my mind harkened back to me at age nineteen.

Being young, male, and well…stupid…I had moved out of my of my family’s home a few months prior. I spent some time working for a cousin and living at his place, then moved again, which prompted living in my car for a few weeks. Finally, I found a roommate and employment. The job was as a hod carrier for a plastering company. 

Basically that meant heaving ninety-pound sacks of cement onto a mixer, breaking the bag open, and shaking the powder into the whirring blades while trying unsuccessfully not to breathe. Then a partner and I tossed thirty-five shovels of sand per bag in after it, while adding water to get the “mud” to a desired consistency. While it mixed, we moved scaffolding for the plasterers and set up stands where we put the cement they troweled onto the wall. Ahhh, but it didn’t get to the stand on its own. I poured it from the mixer into a wheelbarrow and brought it to the stand, then shoveled it into place. We did this all day long, and I have the tinnitus to prove it. (Mixers are loud.) But, that was all after arriving at the job site. Getting there was another matter entirely. 

The owner of the company, my buddy’s father, was a raging alcoholic. My friend and I would show up at the “yard” where the equipment and his dad lived. We would go into the barn-like structure and find him wherever he had fallen the previous night (he seemed to prefer the bathtub.) We woke him, braced for the torrent of inventive vulgar descriptions of us he delivered. During the day he continued these in a belief that they somehow spurred us to higher levels of performance. It is corny, but true, my boss had a good heart and made us breakfast cooked on a barbeque using a broken wooden cement pallet as fuel. He also eventually taught me to use the tools of the trade and I worked my way through college and provided for my young family using them.

Writing = Sit at a typewriter and bleed?  Yes please.

I’m sure you are at the point of all this, but I’ll state it just in case.

Anything…At any point in my life…That was worth doing…involved obstacles and trials. When I lost focus and dwelt on the difficulties, the load became unbearable.

I write because I love it. I get huge kicks from having the story find its way out of me. I enjoy meeting people on twitter and finding comrades who support my efforts and keep me sharp. In essence…I love the “traveling.” I’m going to explore every little back alley I can and find some pig cheeks along the way. Sure, I hope and pray I make the “destination.” But if I don’t, if never find an agent, land a contract, or any of the things that go along with traditional publication, I will still write and relish the process.

How about you?

Why are you writing? What is your focus? What spurs you on? 


  1. Nice blog and yes, I get your point. :) I will continue to write even if I never get an agent, simply because that's what I've always done. I still hope I become a published author someday, of course, but I will always be a writer.

    1. Having been blessed to read some of your work, I hope you find the success you so greatly deserve.

  2. What an excellent post. No you don't come over as snarky at all and the lead sentiment about being a traveller- spot on.
    I made little play at finding an agent and through them a publisher because I as already aware that a large proportion of the promotion and advertising would be mine anyway and for that I'd see only a small percentage of the money from sales. I preferred to Indie publish, do the work I would have done for a publisher and collect 70% royalties instead. At least it would be if I sold a book. lol.
    Joking apart, I have sold paperbacks and ebooks and had the pleasure of some nice reviews, meeting some nice readers and some nice authors on my journey. Is the travelling wothwhile? You Bet !

  3. Great post and a really good point with no snark at all.
    Like you, I love writing and never imagined the other enjoyments I would find along the journey.

    I put words on the page everyday because it feels so good to have them pouring out of me, I polish these words because I want to share them with others. I too hope to one day, if all the stars align, reach my dream of being published. But without the support and encouragement of wonderful CPs and great writing friends, the journey would be so much harder.

    Good luck on your journey. I feel blessed to be a part of it!

  4. Hi JM!
    Great Blog post!
    We just met thru the ASMSG "Like Party" so you might also like my Ballady Blog;

    Hugs & Good Luck!
    writing as AA Bell
    @ThePoetTrees on Twitter
    AA Bell on Facebook