One of my favorite photos I've taken this year was this one, at the gateway to the ocean, on the edge of Tangiers. It's an extraordinary photo, because it shows a moment: a man walking, yet captured, still-life. But it's also so blue, so intense, so total. There is nothing between the viewer and the blue. One feels one is seeing everything. And to me, this is how writing can be: it can show everything, either by telling it, or by my subtly inserting it into the subjects and stories I write. Writing is a place with no space in between--or if there is space, it should be a satisfying one, which is hard to do when you leave things out. My solution has been to mix things up.
It was last January that I started this website, and I have to say that from the start I found the idea of a website pretty terrifying--not so much because of what I would write here, but more so what everyone told me NOT to write.
As someone who is a travel writer, I was advised to stick to travel and place. Not to sway too far from the status quo. It was suggested I not talk about difficult subjects: not just by other writers, but pressures also came from the public and even my own relations.
But one thing I knew from the start was that I had spent years suppressing my stories, and because I was told not to tell them, I took on the shame and responsibility for them. I knew that when I created a website, it would have to include the dark things, the hard truths, the realness.
There are people who write well and manage to avoid these things, but to me the best writers are the ones who dive deep. When I read work by someone who is talking story but not moving in and out of the water of their own history, I feel a lack. It is not empty, but it is missing something. I don't really know what to say when I read that work, because it's obvious that they avoiding talking about the very thing which led them to that story in the first place. It makes everything watered down, as Kafka says above, when we are not authentic.
So it's been almost a year here, writing a mix of travel and personal memoir, and I think it's working. I've talked about cancer. I've talked about rape. I've talked about incest. But I've also marched through Paris, joined a wake in Honduras, taught at a Muslim girls' school in Bihar.
Recently I was talking to a travel writer, who had a sort of content-and-destination website, but who also wanted to write about her personal life. It was frustrating for her to find a happy medium, and she'd decided to create two websites, one for each of her selves. I get that on a professional level, but I also get that our histories empower us to write about what attracts us, whether it's travel, entertainment, dogs, or politics. Figuring out a way to bring a little (or a lot) of one's history into one's writing life without dividing it can be very rewarding. Not to mention, it shows that you can move about in the world freely, honestly, and without reservations. It makes you relatable, responsible, and personal.
Today, the good is the importance of mixing it up. If you only write destination pieces, you will end up hungering for richer, more intensive words and stories. And if you only write work about your agonies, frustrations, and self growth you will sometimes wish you could write about your summer vacation which was perfectly wonderful.
Life is interwoven. Writing should be, too.
I'm glad I ignored the advice I was given about what to write and share publically: it has helped me understand my readers and gain a wider audience, not to mention dismiss shaming people entirely from my life. I'm planning more big stories for 2015, and in part this is because I have this website, this home, this creation to share them on. It's a great comfort to have a place where I can mix it all up. A place where I can show the deep intense blue of the Moroccan sea, in words.
Thanks for reading. Gratitude.