After school I didn’t think much about attending a writing course. I also didn’t go to university to study English or journalism. If I became inspired I would write on the nearest notepad, paper or napkins. Early on my writing had a theme but no point; it had feeling but no structure. I would try to describe how a landscape appeared to me, or the intricacies of a bird in flight and sometimes the visceral feelings of being exhausted and cold. I would wake up at 4am, write (sometimes on the toilet) and go back to sleep. I often struggled to write about things where I wasn’t presently or directly involved. Years passed as I followed an almost instinctive urge to write. I had no destination in mind. I did it for the love, the creative rush and the release.
Becoming older the creative growth mirrored the spiritual and physical journey. Travel (and later expeditions) became a lightning rod to the writing process with all its visceral sensations and emotions. Exposure to new and ancient cultures plugged me into an overwhelming landscape of inspiration. Never before did I feel more creative than when I was part of a human story in a remote environment, the two arms of the wishbone were converging. It had taken me 25 years to discover that my writing path was leading me here to discover, create and share a different kind of story. It was here, amongst the tiredness and discovery of expeditions and adventure, that I’d finally found my voice.
Today, travel writing is a widely competitive market. Never before have there been more ways get your stories read and published. From free blogs, competitions and magazines, there’s a myriad of options at your disposal. That of the “niche” expedition writing is somewhat more difficult. Like the expeditions themselves, they are few and far between and success here is momentary. This world relies on a specific circumstance aimed at a narrow and highly specialised marketplace. Yet, launching yourself into either direction is certainly achievable with regular content and being dog-eared persistent. On that note, I’d love to share my four tips that you might find useful:
1. Find Your Niche.
Your niche will be linked directly to your passions. When you write this will be your voice, your standpoint and your view of the world. You will determine your niche by what you write about, directly categorising your content. Start writing now, throw yourself in and enter the market. Identify areas where other travel writers aren’t focusing and bring your voice consistently to the table. See where you’re making progress, acknowledge what doesn’t work and don’t worry if your writing doesn’t fit in with the normal travel framework. Being different means you are unique and people are drawn towards the unique.
2. Listen To Your Passion and Values.
Possibly the most important point of all. Your destinations, what you write about and how you write will be driven by your passions and values. When you begin, if you’re writing from a place of passion, you’ll be carving your niche with every letter. You’ll notice huge differences when you write about something you’re interested in rather than something you’re not. One will flow like a powerful river; and one the water will run dry very quickly. Find a subject matter, destination or way of life that makes you feel most alive and drawn to. Follow that trail of breadcrumbs, it will lead you somewhere special.
3. Know the Point of Your Piece.
This is something that I had to work on a lot. Up until a few years ago I frequently over wrote my work. Before you begin the writing process have a clear vision of what you are trying to say and what you’re trying to get across. Remember, the reader is not standing in your shoes, put them there with words. So be creative, clear and concise as to what point your piece is making. Always start your work from a place of value and finish with a take away lesson.
4. Development, Persistence and Feedback.
There is no failure, only feedback, it’s that simple. Keep writing, keep making mistakes and keep evolving. I look at writing as important as the beating of my own heart, without it i’m a ship left on the dock. With that, feedback and criticism can be hard to swallow, as writing is intensely personal. Let it fly because feedback will consistently make you a more effective and dynamic writer. What I’ve learnt is that with any skill, accepting, learning and applying feedback is key to development. Persistence is the engine driving you to your destination.
Even though the technical aspects of writing are certainly pivotal for success, the true creativity and depth of your writing will come from your unique experience and passionate standpoint.
Images by Jay Kolsch at www.jaykolsch.com