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Monday, October 7, 2013

A Writer takes a Holiday...or does she?

It has been one of those (happy) years where my friends just roll their eyes at me, heave a sigh and say “Where are you off to now?”

I love travel. I was born to a peripatetic life. I spent the first 10 years of my life in Africa making annual visits (”Home leave”) to England and later, as an adult, living in Singapore for 3 years.
AS 'on holiday' in Central Australia...and yest that is a fly net I am shouldn't need to write and swat flies at the same time.
As soon as I had saved enough money, just before starting my final year at university I was off to Europe on the big “OS”. Australians are great travellers. One of the drawbacks of living in our wonderful country is that it really is at the bottom of the world and so to travel ANYWHERE you have to be prepared for long hours in planes which means we really appreciate everything Europs/Asia/Americas have to offer! None of this popping over to Paris for a weekend. A trip to Paris has to be planned, saved for and involves at least 24 hours of solid flying.

I have been fortunate in recent years and managed a great deal of overseas travel.  This year, for example I have been to the USA, the Caribbean and Russia… Next year - nothing planned but I am sure something will come up.

It is therefore perfectly natural that my writing “career” began when I was on holiday - a skiing holiday in the Australian alps with our young family. I foolishly believed my husband when he declared “This slope doesn’t look steep.” One dislocated shoulder and one of the most embarrassing experience of my life later and I found myself alone in a ski chalet in the Australian ski fields with one of the very first “notebook” computers, loaded with Word Perfect 5.1 (still the BEST WP software IMO) and the rest, as they say is history. I finished that book and it is now, some incarnations later, BY THE SWORD.

It was enough, I was addicted to writing! Everywhere I travel now I carry a notebook and pen. If I forget to pack one then I panic and rush off to the nearest shop to purchase one. These days I also carry my iPad but I prefer the immediacy of a pen and paper when I am on the move.  I have sat in cars, jotting down scenes that had to be written THAT MOMENT. I have sat on planes and scribbled in my notebook. I have lain beside pools and let the ideas foment in my head. Every place I visit I view like a location spotter for a movie, every story I read in a museum is a potential plot. If I find myself alone in a hotel room with “NOTHING” to do, I will be scribbling away. In short I seem to never quite be “on holiday” from writing.

I have just returned from a week in Central Australia. It was hot but the flies weren’t too bad (thanks for asking). DH (darling husband) and I camped under the stars in the West Macdonnell ranges. This holiday I thought I would try my hand at painting (I come from a long line of artists) so I sat by the picturesque waterhole staring at the blank page of my new sketch book, pencil in hand. What did I do? I wrote… I just let my mind go into free fall and what I felt unable to communicate visually I did verbally… "The ancient red soaked walls rise hundreds of feet into the air, cracked and scoured like a reptile skin…” or “The ghost gum clings to life, its roots forcing down into the rock to find the precious water to sustain its existence…”. I sat at a table in our campsite and scribbled down the start of a new story (for those who have read GATHER THE BONES… Tony Scarvell is crying out to have his story told).

Full credit to Debbie Redpath of for this wonderful cartoon that has done the rounds of all my writer friends!

Is this inability to escape from writing a good thing? I don’t know. I can’t imagine not travelling without it 'in my hand luggage'. It’s not like travelling with the weight of a law practice on my shoulders. Its fun and invigorating and, in my view, good for the muse to find herself in different situations. Mind you there are times when my muse seems to go on holiday without me...but that's a post for another day.

What do you think? Should I leave my writing behind when I am on vacation? If so, any suggestions as to how I do that?