Recently, I took a holiday across Europe from the UK to Sicily, taking in Rome along the way. Hey, anyone want to see my holiday pictures? Here’s the Colosseum in Rome:
OK, I’m no good at travelogues. Check out this post from my consort Tanya Jones if you want something a little more sensible in that regard.
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We spent a lot of time on the train on this holiday, and part of our journey involved an 11 hour train ride from Rome to Sicily. And as excited as I was to be travelling along the Italian coast, something else was at the back of my mind. I had a laptop. I had a power socket. And I had 11 hours to fill. I could walk onto that train with my mind totally empty, and walk off it with a whole article written on something cool.
And I’m sure that would be perfect for some people. The kind of people who conjure up magical words purely out of their magical brain, and need nothing else.
Me? It really made me realise how pretty much everything I write builds on the work of others.1 When I’m writing, I need constant access to articles online, to my DVD shelf, to my 40″ television, to books I suddenly discover I have to buy, and to help from random people on Twitter. Travelling with just a laptop and a brain – and spotty data coverage – isn’t enough for me to be able to do anything useful.
The romantic ideal didn’t work.
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And yet, wandering around Syracuse, full of calamari, something strange started to happen. Looking out at the beautiful sea, an idea popped into my head for an article. And another one. And another one. And another one. My head felt full of ideas for the first time in ages.
None of those article ideas were about the beauty of Sicily, of course. It was all about old sitcoms, as per. But they were ideas, some of them vaguely swirling around my head for ages, which suddenly popped into sharp focus.
It’s standard advice, of course. Go somewhere new, change your surroundings, and your brain will find it easier to do things. But that’s the thing: it’s such standard advice, it’s sometimes easy just to ignore it. But it really did work for me. If you have trouble getting your brain in gear, going somewhere else really is a useful thing to do. A cliche it may be, but it did me the absolute world of good.
The romantic ideal worked.
Not necessarily builds upwards. ↩