Just as my reading has widened over the years, and as I give up on the written press for news and views, so have I turned some energies into putting my own thoughts into writing. Diary pieces for my own benefit have evolved into attempts at writing for public consumption, just at the time that newspapers and magazines, in the light of falling circulations, cutr back on opportunities for freelance writers. However I continue to practice, to enter competitions, with some degree of success, and to learn about the dark arts of pitching to editors. In time I would hope that my need to write will lead to more opportunities to travel to places about which I wish to write. I hear a calling, a need to have my own pen follow in the inkstains of my favourite writers. As writing becomes more important to me, so there is a realisation that travelling is constrained by time and commitments, and of course the need for the filthy luchre. However even when opportunites for fresh articles are limited I hope to be able to post a few samples from my archive, with a promise of some new works in the years ahead.
The following is the best definition of Travel Writing I have come across, and I try to use it as a form of ‘Mission Statement’ ( dreadful term that I detest). The words are those of Redmond O’Hanlon, and come from his introduction to the Picador edition of Into the Heart of Borneo:
The perfect travel book should be astrue as fiction, and use the methods of fiction. It should be beautifully structured, many-layered, full of interlocking stories, resonant knowledge, compressed dialogue, narrative force. Its descriptions of the look and feel of a country, a landscape, should be far more vivid than any film could ever be. The length, the difficulty of the actual journey, are as nothing compared to the importance of their re-imagining; it’s all a question of intensity. The writer should have read all there is to read about his chosen country (but not let his knowledge show directly); he should be intouch with every part of his mind as he writes, his early childhood, his real obsessions, the most vulnerable parts of himself, the self in the book which is reflected through his characters, should be open, generous, innocent and hospitable enough, to carry the reader the with him – a fragile capsule in which and through which the journey can be re-experienced.
An ideal, of course (and I never expect to attain it), but no matter, because the genre is robust, outbred, various; it encompasses the novel, reportage, biography, history, letters, diaries, reconstructed notebooks (Robert Byron took three years to remake his for the apparently casual The Road to Oxiana).
In time I would hope that even a smidgeon of this may eventually creep into my jottings.