Writing is a Journey
I want to share an idea that may prove unpopular: writing is a journey. It’s like life. Ultimately it’s not about what you accumulate, how much you are published, or what you achieve; it is an exploration, a chance to experience.
I used to have the view that at my age, (I’m 29), in an ideal situation I’d sit back and think, Ah, I’ve achieved everything I want to achieve, now it’s just about maintaining the plateau. Of course, I’ve come to realise the long and painful way that it’s not about getting to a certain point or age—there is no certain point, all you can do is go on.
The same is true for writing. This may seem easy to say as a published poet. And of course, the idea that writing should be thought of as a journey shouldn’t be interpreted as, If it’s a journey, I’ll just enjoy the ride and stop trying. Conversely, I’m going to show why thinking of your writing career as a journey can actually be motivational and beneficial to your writing.
It allows you to be unconventional
As a writer, you’re told that being published, and ideally having your own book published, preferably with the largest publisher you can find, is the Holy Grail. Being published is a good goal to have, and certainly reasonable. After a certain period of writing it would be fair to expect to have at least a few pieces of your writing out there in some form, be they written, video, or audio, that weren’t put out by you. I myself used to think that if only I could publish my collection of poetry, I could die happy. But after I did so, life went on. There were practical things to be done like promotion and gigging, but most importantly, I still wanted to write, and for the same reason that I wrote a collection in the first place: I enjoyed it. I can speak with confidence when I say that in the world of poetry at least, having a published collection isn’t the be all and end all of your writing career, and that being published shouldn’t become a reason to be complacent.
I know plenty of fine, successful, acclaimed poets in hot demand whose focus isn’t publication. Thinking of writing as a journey has given each of them the confidence to carve out a unique, individual path when it comes to writing and to be confident in themselves. They took chances just to see what those chances would be like, and they paid off. They weren’t straight-jacketed by their expectations of themselves.
It gives you focus
Thinking of writing as a journey gives you focus, partly because it helps you become calmer. Your writing practice is no longer an overwhelming beast, because you’re allowed to also think of it as fun and occasionally even spontaneous. Therefore you are able to concentrate, apply yourself, and focus on the project at hand. I always like to have two projects in the pipeline, or put a few enquiries out at a time, and keep my speculation, anticipation, and even anxiety restricted to these. Rather than take on many projects and leave them all unfulfilled, I take on a few and make sure that they are.
It eliminates negative thought
Linked to the point above, thinking of writing as a journey helps you eliminate negative thought. Your writing is not driven by results, causing you to be under pressure; you are doing it because you want to and because you want to meet people, travel, and think in ways you haven’t before. When you’re not self-consciously trapped inside your own mind you’re in the best position to learn from the writing of others and really feel what they’re trying to express. You will be more open and not wrapped up in a false sense of competition and pointless jealousies.
The above are just some of the ways that changing the way you perceive writing, from something with an end goal that keeps getting further away with you despairing increasingly to something that is always able to be enjoyed because it is always ongoing. We’d all love to sit in our mountain like a dragon, on our gold, away from the harsh struggle of life, but unfortunately that just isn’t the human condition. The human condition is what we’re trying to reflect in our writing.
When I look back over my writing career, what I cherish most is the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. I love looking over my writing memories. I remember a woman saying to me after a reading that she would remember the last two lines of one of my poems for the rest of her life. Would I be saying these things if I hadn’t been published? If I didn’t gig regularly? If I hadn’t achieved anything? The point is that you cannot separate your journey and your achievements as a writer. Of my own work, my favourite poems are usually the ones I’ve most recently written. As a writer, I’m most looking forward to the things that I will do in the future.
© 2020 Setareh Ebrahimi
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Setareh Ebrahimi performs regularly, and is a poet working in Faversham, Kent. She is the author of In My Arms from Bad Betty Press.