Read, Write . . . and have adventures

Every writer is different, and this business is in large part subjective (part of what makes it wonderful), but I’ve always been of the opinion that writing is a craft best not learned in a classroom. I remain mostly unconvinced that a workshop full of 13 other young writers trying to find their voices is the best place for me to find my voice. There’s much to learn from professional writers, conferences and workshops, don’t get me wrong. But at some point, you’ll be hearing a “show don’t tell” mantra in your sleep, but you won’t have anything to write about because meanwhile, you haven’t been living.

Writers should read, writers should write, and writers should . . . have adventures!

I’m happy to say that I’m leaving tomorrow for Scotland to start a two month adventure of my own. A very deliberate effort to learn as much as I can about life, expressly so that I can write about it. :D

This is a study abroad program where we hike all over Great Britain reading and discussing literature and writing and workshopping personal essays. Between Edinburgh and London, we will hike for more than 200 miles through some of the world’s most picturesque landscapes, visiting dozens of locations renowned for their cultural and literary significance, including the wilds of Scotland and Wales, medieval York, Shakespeare’s Stratford, the Romantics’ Lake District, the Brontes’ moors, Hardy’s Wessex, Austen’s Bath, Lewis and Tolkien’s Oxford, the coastline that inspired Keats and Tennyson, and King Arthur’s Tintagel. We will see several plays (many by Shakespeare), historical sites, and museums, but our primary goal is to live the landscape and literature deliberately.

I’m not the first one to make the observation that walking and writing seem to go hand in hand.

Just look at all the walker-writers, stretching from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to his fellow modern-day psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, via John Clare, William Blake, the English and American romantic poets, Parisian flâneurs, Rudolf Hess. These walker/writers are what might be called romantic individualists. For a Rousseau or a William Wordsworth, the act of walking through the world was not primarily about the world itself; they were much more concerned with walking into their inner worlds. From the day Rousseau turned his back on his native city, these peripatetic writer-thinkers were bent on walking into a kind of alienated individuality. These guys are professional outsiders; visionaries and dreamers on the road.

Which is precisely what I shall be.

Ha–just kidding.

That’s unlikely. In the midst of all our existential poetry reading and morose speculations about the grandeur of life, I suspect there will also be wet socks, blisters, bad hair days, immature pranks and choosing to eat McDonalds because it’s easier. But that too will be lovely.

Anyway–that’s where I’ll be the next eight weeks, and that’s what I’ll be blogging about (though I’ll try and keep the focus on writing). Turn off your “follow” e-mails if you don’t want to hear about it. Scotland or bust, baby!


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