Is Fan Fiction Only A Distraction From Writing Real Stories?

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While I was thinking about and trying to become a plotter, I also started to question if writing fan fiction was getting too much of my attention. After all, during the year of 2019 I haven’t actually been writing anything original apart from my thesis and these blog posts. The second edition of Yellow Tails has 8,000 words in it, written during the summer, but that’s about it. Instead, I’ve written more than 30,000 words of fan fiction, resulting in 12 different short-stories.

So – was it any wonder I began questioning my writing habits?

(You might see that those few weeks were the Huge Weeks Of Doubt for me – it seems like I was questioning my current writing habits from almost every angle.)

In May, I wrote a blog post about the benefits of writing fan fiction. While writing this post, it was fun to go back in time and see what thoughts I had more than six months ago and review it, to see if I still agreed with myself about the benefits. And I do!

I still think writing fan fiction helps you develop as a writer because it allows you to focus on creating an intriguing plot, do a proper character and world study and try to re-create that in your stories when you don’t have to come up everything by yourself.

But has it actually been worth all that time and effort to write fan fiction rather than original stories?

As I’ve gained more experience on the writing forum and have been writing fan fiction actively for the past eight months, I think it’s time to think about fan fiction writing again – this time from a different perspective.

Support, Encouragement, Development

Let’s start with the good things.

First of all, the writing community on the forum I’ve been active on, is just wonderful. 

Although it’s not nearly as active as it was ten years ago, there’s still some great conversations going on about writing, reading and everything else. These conversations are a good reminder of the struggles and challenges all writers face and you might learn something new from reading about the experiences of others. 

The community is supportive, too: advice, tips and consultation is given when needed. Once, for instance, I was feeling overwhelmed with my story and unsure if it was coherent. I reached out to a certain topic, asking for help, and quickly got two volunteers to read through my story and give feedback on it.

It also feels relatively easy to make writing friends there – you just have to be active and not only a silent viewer.

These are some of the absolute benefits of getting into the fan fiction sphere. And the forum isn’t only about fan fiction – the original stories are almost if not as popular! This means the same support and helping applies to writing original stories as well.

The third aspect I’ve noticed is how encouraging and incredibly nice it is to get comments and feedback on the stories I’ve written. It doesn’t only motivate me but it also helps me figure out what scenes or events the readers focus on, what details they react to, what they think works well and what does not.

In the same way, I believe commenting on other’s stories does the same: it makes me more reflective on what I’m reading.

The Cozy Comfort Zone

So many good things – but there is a downside to writing fan fiction. However, it’s only a downside if – note, if – you don’t pay attention to it and hop off the wagon before it’s too late (if ‘too late’ even exists, but it will, nevertheless, slow you down).

The challenge with fan fiction is that it’s almost too comfortable. It’s so easy to just keep on writing about the characters and the world you already know, take inspiration from the original plot and give it a new twist or see it from a different perspective. And there are always new challenges that help you come up with the next idea, keeping you in the fan fiction challenge loop for as long as possible. 

Also, it’s extremely comfortable to just keep on publishing on a forum where the community is nice, friendly and accepting. 

However, in the long run, becoming too comfortable on the fan fiction side of writing creates a fear for creating something original. That’s what has been happening to me, at least. I’ve been doing great in the world of fan fiction – but what if that’s all I’m good for? What if my original characters are too weak when they in my fan fiction are so strong, what if the original world is flat and boring when in the other it’s magical?

What my doubt a few weeks back showed me was that I was and am clearly getting too comfortable in the world of fan fiction. I won’t say it has become easy to write a successful, entertaining and thought-provoking fanfic, but it feels like I’ve gotten the idea.

It makes me think that it’s time to try something else.

It’s time to push myself back to my discomfort zone – to the world of original stories. I’ve been putting down thoughts, hopes and ideas for the writing year of 2020 and that mind map doesn’t have too many fan fiction stories in it.

In a way, it’s a pity because I love being active on the forum – but it feels like this is better in the long run.

Lessons To Be Learned

I would like to point out that this year of writing has not been wasted in any way – I’ve developed my writing skills, learned a little bit more about my style as a writer and much more. I have also gained more confidence on certain aspects of my writing and definitely feel more aware of my own writing.

And the best thing is that I do feel somewhat more confident about publishing my original stories on the forum as well – I already know some of my readers and they know me, so maybe I will be able to get some feedback on the original content as well?

So, to sum it up: yes, fan fiction can be a distraction from original writing if you let it happen. I could go on writing fan fiction for years and years and always use them as an excuse to not write any of my own stories. But in the same way I could distract myself from writing by doing sudokus or puzzles, as well.

Therefore, if you learn to pick the best parts of writing fan fiction to benefit from them in your original writing, I don’t see any reason to quit. I, at least, will not.

 

Writerly Update 1: November 2019

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When we were on our roadtrip, I noticed myself feeling guilty for not writing – or not writing ’enough’. I had the growing sensation of degradation, how my writing muscles got weaker by each day and I lost ‘the touch’. 

However, when I started counting together the words I had written during our four months of travel, I was surprised by how much I had managed to write.

This made me think of how unnecessary it was for me to feel guilty about ‘not writing’ – and how I could counteract that guilt. 

The Cure For Writer’s Guilt

Our brains play tricks on us. Sometimes it makes us think we did something that we did not – from sending text messages or saying thank you to the bus driver to thinking we ate healthy this week although we went out for burgers or pizza at least three times that week. 

And sometimes our brains make us think we haven’t done anything, although we have: we forget that walking from place to place is actually exercise, or that just because we don’t tick everything from our to do -list doesn’t mean we didn’t accomplish anything that day. 

The latter describes the tricks my brain does to me.

But I’m cleverer than that – and therefore, half-way October, I started tracking my writing. The tracker has been a very basic, pen-on-paper kind of tracker where I’ve written down the date, what I wrote and how many words. Now, I would like to share my writing progress with you.

‘The Writerly Update’ will become a monthly series on this blog where I can show and share with you what I write and how I feel about writing – you could even think of it as a writer’s diary. But most importantly, in addition to sharing my writing with you I’m also sharing it with myself. This way, I’ll keep myself updated on my own writing and can also reflect on my projects.

So, I present to you: The Writerly Update for November 2019!

The Great Statistics

For November, the goal was simply to get back to my writing routines, to my almost-daily writing. I decided upon this goal because my writing routines have practically been non-existent during our travels, and I was quite certain it would take getting used to active writing routines again.

My writing routines back home were more or less daily the following: in the morning, before breakfast, I would journal for two pages. After breakfast, with my morning coffee, I would start writing. Most often, I aimed for 1,000 words per day – sometimes I wrote more, rarely less.

However, November wasn’t maybe the optimal month for trying to get back to the routines mentioned above. During this month, I’ve still been on the road, I’ve sold a car, travelled to another country, figured out a bus card, bank account and tax number for myself – in addition to working at a farm five hours a day for a week. 

But I’ve still managed to write something because it was a promise I made for myself (and for this blog). So, let’s see some statistics:

November 2019

Days writing and/or journaling: 17 days out of 30
Word count in total (excluding journaling): 12,960 words

Texts published: one fictional + four blog posts
Comments on other people’s texts: 15

In other words, 56% of the month was spent writing and, even though my word count isn’t anywhere near the brave Nanowrimo-writers’, I’m happy for my 12,960 words. My lowest word count for the day was 200 words and the highest 2,500.

What I Wrote This Month

The projects I worked on this month were mainly fan fiction. 

I planned and wrote a story of 5,000 words in total, divided into three parts. Two of the parts are already live on the writing forum and the third part will be published next week’s Thursday. This piece was a challenge because the narrator was first-person rather than third which I’m more used to. The story was also written from the perspective of a rather wicked male character – my characters tend to be female and, well, nice.

However, after trying out different narrators, it really felt like first-person worked better than third-person – I believe it gave this specific main character more depth and showed his personality better than a third-person description would have. Nevertheless, it required some effort to finish the story and some courage to actually publish it.

I’m still fairly uncertain why I wrote the story but at least I got some good exercise out of it. Maybe next time I’ll feel more comfortable switching to first-person narrative and don’t find it as challenging to write more evil characters.

The other story I’ve been working on is a story with 24 parts, all of them flash fiction with a word count between 100 and 300 words per part. With this story, it’s not the characters or the narrative that are challenging (the characters are familiar to me from my previous works and I’m going for third-person narrative written in present tense, my favorite), but rather the theme and genre of the story.

It’s a genre called hurt/comfort and is defined as following on Wikipedia: “A story in which a character is put through a traumatizing experience in order to be comforted. The ultimate goal of these stories is often to allow for close examination of two characters’ bond with one another – –”.

And even though for me, the hurt-part of the story is clear and even the comfort of it, I feel like I’m struggling with the words to create the right kind of mood for the story. It’s hard to say if I’m doing it wrong or right or something in-between but I intend to publish it during December so we’ll see how the readers will find it!

Summing Up November

Considering that November was the first month of getting back on track with my writing, I’d say I did fairly well. Life got in the way on many days but still, I managed to write at least every other day of the month, resulting in a good total of 12,960 words. I also commented on 15 short stories/chapters to novels I’ve read online, which I consider as a good total for the month.

The projects I’ve worked on have had their challenges but at the same time, I’ve learned something new from them and tried writing something different than what I’m used to. It’s easy to write about what you know and therefore I’m happy I’m putting myself on the discomfort zone – and still having the courage to publish my texts!

The goal for December is to keep on with the good work and aim for writing five to six days a week. I won’t get all too excited and start dictating a daily word count quite yet, but we’ll see what and how much I write when I try to get back to almost-daily writing. My goal is also to publish the 24-part hurt/comfort online and get back to writing my longer fan fiction story.

And that was it! The next Writerly Update will be in the end of December/early January so we’ll see how I managed my goals for the last month of the year (!).

What have you been working on? Do you keep track of your writing?

 

My Brief Career As A Plotter

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A few months ago at a hostel in Malaysia, I got an idea for a fan fiction story. A longer story with action, adventure and a hint of mystery, starring the characters I had been writing about for a while now.

Because the idea was for a longer story (more than 20,000 words) than the ones that I’ve previously written (around 5,000), I decided it was time to write down a basic plot line following the hero’s journey.

Earlier this year, I read a book from Beth Ravis called Paper Hearts that goes through the basics of writing a book. There, Ravis shows her method for plotting called ‘chart structure’ that has four acts, all divided into four parts. As this was the structure I felt comfortable with, I planned my plot line following the chart.

This was a new thing for me as I had never planned this carefully before starting the actual writing process. And I loved writing down the plot – it was fun to know what was going to happen and have a feeling of coherence. This, I thought, was the way to get rid of those plot holes and inconsistencies!

Following the chart method was really almost like writing a very short story, and I really liked the ideas I had. I believed I had a good plot on the way.

The False Cure

When I started writing the story, at first everything went pretty well. I let the words come and wrote them down, writing the first four chapters. However, every night when I was thinking about the text, I realized some small inconsistencies or things that needed to be added in as foreshadowing for future events.

Slowly, as I wrote, the inconsistencies started adding up, it didn’t feel like I was foreshadowing enough – 

I mean, did I even know how to write an adventurous mystery? 

– and I wondered if I was wasting my time continuing to write the story when it felt like I was just making the editing process more painful with every scene that I wrote.

I realized I needed to plan way better than the chart structure. A better, more detailed plot line, not only for the main plot line but for the side plots, as well. It should and it would help me out, both in writing and editing the story.

So I opened a new Word-file, made a chart with four columns (one for the different acts according to the chart structure and three for the different plot lines) and started writing out the scenes more carefully, tracking the plot lines side by side.

It felt like I was doing the right thing. I was ensuring I was getting to know my story and my characters. Scene by scene, I was minimizing my work load in the editing part of writing.

I deleted the fourth chapter and started writing it from scratch. I edited a big part of the first chapter and was still unsure if it was right. I added some more foreshadowing to the second chapter and wondered if the third chapter was needed at all because maybe there wasn’t enough happening?

While thinking of all these things, what I didn’t realize at first was that I wasn’t writing the story anymore.

I was so focused on thinking about what was right or wrong with the first four chapters and how could I make everything as right as possible in the future, that I totally left the story file stand alone on my desktop. I didn’t touch it, I simply couldn’t, as long as I didn’t have a proper full outline for all my plots.

And I realized that somehow, all that plotting and planning took out all the fun of writing the actual story.

My Two Sides

But why? Isn’t planning and plotting supposed to be the way to a more coherent, intriguing story? Like the writer of a murder mystery writer who knows from the beginning who the murderer is and can therefore create false trails for the reader to follow? Why couldn’t I do it?

The weird thing is, when it comes to writing, I’ve always considered myself as a plantser. I write down a loose idea or a beginning of a plot line that might have an ending and then I start writing. I don’t put down too much time to plan the characters or the world, but let them build themselves while I write.

Then again, when it comes to life outside of writing, I’ve always been a planner. If you’ve read more of my blog posts, you know that I enjoy being organized, managing my time and goals. I love writing lists, having things tidy and structured according to the alphabet or a numerical value.

I thought it would be easy to implement my organizational skills to my writing – but the truth has proven to be almost the opposite.

At first, I was somewhat disappointed in myself because it felt like what I had thought was a definite step on the development path for me as a writer turned out to be a total bust. 

But then, as some quotes happened to change my perspective some weeks ago, a passage in a book helped me see my plantsing in a better light.

What book, you may ask, by whom?

Well, no other than On Writing by Stephen King.

The Return of the Plantser

According to my quick analysis, Stephen King is somewhere in between a pantser and plantser. His stories start with an idea of what if… and from there, after some thinking, he starts writing. He lets the characters do their thing and the story tells itself. King, as a writer, is only there to put pen to paper, like an archeologist is there to uncover a fossil.

This passage in the book (pp. 163-165) woke me up from my decision to become a plotter and made me think of the plantser-plotter dilemma from a different perspective.

If all this time I had had fun writing without really knowing what was going to happen, why was I taking that fun away from myself? And if I have been writing good stories without plotting everything down to a detail, why change?

And after thinking about King’s words for a day or two, I decided to let go of plotting and resume to my plantsing. Some people are planners, some people are not – and the key is to know what kind of writer you are and play your strengths.

I believe I am a hard core plantser.

So, in the future, a basic plot line will do or I’ll only come up with the starting scene and let the story take me anywhere from there. Yes, it might lead to more work on the editing side, at least at first. But maybe I will be learning while I’m writing and for every new draft there will be fewer inconsistencies and enough foreshadowing? 

It is, at least, something to aim for.

Am I Proud To Be A Writer?

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Lately, there has been some conversation among the Finnish writers about taking pride in being a writer. For many, writing fiction and/or fan fiction is something they don’t tell about to other people. Maybe it’s for the fear of being judged or because it feels like writing is sacred only when kept to oneself.

(I used to be familiar with the latter one, though with books. When I was 13 and read Twilight for the first time, I loved the book so much I didn’t want to tell about it to anyone – I was afraid the book would lose its appeal if someone I knew also thought it was awesome.)

As a 9-year-old kid, I wasn’t afraid to tell people I wanted to become J.K. Rowling when I grew up. I wrote stories, even a school play, and wasn’t afraid of letting the teacher read my texts out loud in class. Many in my class knew I was the writer in our class, many said I would be a writer in the future.

There was a slight shift when secondary school began. That’s when we pretty much stopped writing stories in class, and writing became only a hobby for me. But still, I didn’t stop me from sharing my passion for writing. All the fan fiction I wrote, I shared online. The few short stories I wrote, I let my teacher read and give feedback on them. When I was participating in NaNoWriMo, I let some of my friends know.

In other words, I wasn’t afraid of telling people I write.

However, today, as I’m pursuing a career as a writer, I do find it difficult to tell people I’m a writer. That I don’t just write, I’m actually a writer. That I am what I do.

Seeing Writing For What It Is

I think it’s because I feel people don’t see fiction writing as a full-time job.

Many seem to think that isn’t writing a book just about putting words down to create a story and poof! you have a ready-to-read novel? The only thing left to do is to pick a cover for your book, organize a release party and then wait for the sales numbers to go up?

Even I, as I started pursuing my career dream of being a writer one and a half years ago, didn’t know how much went into writing. Now, however, I know that if you really want to, you can make novel writing into a full-time job. All the planning, the research, the writing, editing – it takes time. It’s easy to put down hours after hours to writing and then editing a novel.

Writing books is a real job – but it feels like something only writers and publishers know about, and therefore it is hard to make someone believe writing can be made into a full-time job.

The other reason I have trouble telling people I want to write full-time is that they don’t see it as something you can support yourself with.

It’s what my parents told me when I was nine years old.

They probably have a point – it’s very possible, at least in the beginning, that you won’t become self-sufficient only by writing fiction but this doesn’t mean I cannot make writing into my job. Publishing a book can lead to other financially nice opportunities than working in café/as a cashier/a receptionist alongside writing. For instance, lecturing, visiting schools and libraries and other writing and reading related projects.

I’d much rather work with projects than that than doing something “just because I need the money”. At the same time I’m aware of the fact that it takes a moment to get that first novel published before the other opportunities can come into the picture.

Finding The Courage To Believe In The Dream

Most of all, I think why I’m nervous about telling people I’m a writer is because I’m wondering if I can make it.

There’s a difference between wanting something and being able to get it. Am I good enough to make it, to write a book a publisher wants to work on and make into a proper publishable novel?

And all those actions I’m planning on taking to become a writer: investing in writing software and an e-book reader, reading novels, reading books about writing – am I worth it, I notice myself wondering. Am I doing this, for real? Will it pay off? And…

What if it doesn’t?

By telling people I want to be a full-time writer is scary. It’s a vulnerable thing to say, to reveal your dream or passion for something.

This fear, however, proves that by talking or telling about it I’m doing the right thing. I’m actually facing my fear – and through that, I might actually manage to write a book someone wants to publish and/or read.

What drives me is the encouraging fact that I know writing is what I like doing best, it’s what I love to do. By finding the courage to tell other people that I’m a writer and this is what I aim to do the rest of my life, I might open new possibilities that otherwise wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t told about what I want to do in life.

And – I don’t know if I want to believe in the “even if it doesn’t pay off” way of thinking, but even if something would happen that would alter my writerly pursuit, I know that I’m at least letting myself pursue my dream and passion.

I do that by publishing my blog posts, my fictional short stories. But I also do that by telling more and more people I am a writer and want to be that full-time.

And that’s something I do find pride in.

The Thing About Not Being Homesick

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In the process of less than a week, we sold our road trip car and booked our next flight tickets. Quick actions, one might think, but I believe we are doing the right thing. Australia has been a wonderful experience, a road trip even more so – but it’s time to move on.

The next destination is actually our main destination, the one we’ve been approaching slowly but surely for the last three months: New Zealand. A plan of ours that was born a few years back and the one we’ve been saving for since the plan was formed – to spend a year in this country, to see what it feels like to live on the other side of the world.

In other words, we are not going back to our home country – instead, we are doing the opposite by staying in the southern hemisphere with an eleven-hour time difference from Finland. One could think homesickness would be creeping in.

But I’m not homesick – and I don’t think I will be.

But why is that? Why am I not homesick. Shouldn’t I be?

No Home, No Longing

I believe one reason to why I’m not feeling homesick is that technically, we don’t have a home anymore. Last summer, we sold most of our belongings and gave away the apartment we had been living for the past eight months. This way, I don’t have a specific place for writing or a certain chair where I’d love to curl up to read a good book.

(Sure, my parents still live in the house I grew up in, but what used to be my room is used for something else and the house simply doesn’t feel like my home anymore. So it doesn’t count.)

I can’t feel homesick if I have no home – right?

Some things, of course, remind me of things back home and awaken the feeling of ah, I wish I could do that or have that again. More than once, a smell of something has made me think of my grandparents’ summer cottage. First time, it was the smell of metal chains (yes, that’s right) and the second time, the refreshing smell of pine trees. Both reminded me of those early mornings at the cottage when you wake up with the sun, take a morning swim and enjoy the quiet.

But other than that, I’ve been fine.

Some thoughts in my head say that it’s wrong not to feel homesick, that isn’t there anything I miss and would like to get back to?

But my home, it feels, isn’t in Finland, not anymore. It is somewhere else – because other than those early mornings at the summer cottage, I haven’t really missed anything. I don’t need to go back.

Searching for Safe Space

However, even though I can write more or less anywhere (just give me a chair and table or just a lap and I’ll write), it doesn’t mean I am in no need for a home base. Quite the opposite, really: for weeks, I’ve been longing for a proper writing desk, a space where I can properly write, draw, plan and execute those plans.

But where to find that home base if not in Finland?

Quite randomly, as I was wondering about homesickness and the absence of it, I happened to stumble upon a quote by a Finnish poet, Eeva Kilpi, who said that the meaning of life is ‘to come home’.

This quote became the answer to my questions about homesickness and why I haven’t been feeling it.

For me, ‘to come home’ means finding a place that feels like a safe space. The moment you walk in, you feel safe and comfortable, like you can be and do anything you want in that place. Home also consists of the people around you, the ones you meet and who become your friends. It consists of familiar walking trails, cycle routes.

A home is somewhere you can think clearly, where you feel free to find a way to be yourself without compromising too much.

For me and my partner, it didn’t feel like we could find that in Finland. It just didn’t work out because of many things – the weather, the darkness, the language, the culture. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been feeling homesick?

After reading the quote from Eeva Kilpi, it made me realize that one of the reasons we embarked on this journey is to do precisely that – find a place where it feels like we’ve ‘come home’.

If we find it in New Zealand, only time will tell.

The Way We Travel

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A few weeks ago, we met a German couple who are spending a year in Australia, aiming to drive around the whole country before their twelve-month visas expire. As we had a similar setup, a car with a rooftop tent, and a similar route – we ended up meeting them time and time again on campgrounds and other places.

The similarities got us talking and we spent many great nights and days together. But there was one thing that made us as travelers differ from each other: the way we travel.

We were having a picnic in a park when we started talking about our travel plans for the near future

The Germans could tell us their exact plans for the coming days, even for coming weeks. They intended to explore the botanical gardens and the zoo in Rockhampton, go see a Singing Ship, spend a night at Emu Beach and then slowly make their way towards Bundaberg for a brewery tour and Hervey Bay to spend at least five nights on Fraser Island.

Then they asked us how we plan our travels. Our answer was, and is:

“We plan as we go, take one day at a time.”

I could see in their faces that they thought it was a weird way to travel, that they couldn’t do the same. And in a way, for me, a person who loves planning, doing research and writing lists, this is a very weird way of travelling.

But I’ve grown to like it. I even prefer it that way.

Let the Road Signs Guide You

In Asia, we couldn’t really ‘plan as we went’ because we didn’t have a car and the countries’ infrastructure are more confusing than logical for tourists. In Australia, however, the road network is great and easy to navigate, and we don’t have to follow a schedule.

That has enabled us to do our road the way we want to do it.

What ‘taking one day at a time’ means for us is that after we’ve woken up and had our breakfast, we pack our tent and belongings in the car and hit the road. We have our general direction we’re headed towards, usually a bigger city such as Cairns or Brisbane, but what we’ll do that day and where we end up staying the night is still a mystery.

We have a few different apps on our phones that help us find day-time rest areas, campgrounds and points of interest. They are helpful when we try to find a place where to have lunch, sleep or fill our water tank, but otherwise we let the apps be.

Instead, we keep our eyes open and follow the road signs.

My favorite places so far we’ve randomly visited have been a beautiful windmill park in Atherton Tablelands, Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall Wallaman Falls (268 meters), a bushwalk route in Bowen and a morning above the clouds up in Eugenella Park (as seen in the photo for this post).

All these attractions were unplanned – and unexpectedly beautiful. That, somehow, makes them all even more valuable than the expected things.

Seeing What Others Don’t

Many of our decisions our guided by our low budget. Most often, we opt for free campgrounds instead of those that cost. We choose the free attractions rather than the guided, costly ones. We make our own food on the gas stove instead of going to restaurants and cafés.

It can be seen as a trade-off. Some paid campgrounds are awesome (we did stay at one that used to be nudist park a couple of years back – few places have been as relaxing as that campground) and of course, it would be awesome to go diving on Whitsunday Islands, see the wild koalas on Magnetic Island or the dingoes on Fraser Island. I would love to visit cafés, bakeries and restaurants and gorge on meat pies, fish and chips, artisan made ice cream.

But when seen from another perspective, we are actually experiencing something most tourists are not. It feels like many places we drive through or take a lunch break at aren’t visited by tourists – in a way, they are untouched, and that the road signs we follow guide us to places other tourists have overlooked. The Wallaman Falls, for instance, are visited by approximately 100,000 people per year. In contrast, the Fraser Island is visited by 380,000 people every year.

In other words, we end up seeing something most travelers don’t.

The Ultimate Freedom

By choosing something that feels like the opposite to what most tourists do, I feel a bit rebellious – and it feels right. It feels like we are making our own, unique Australian road trip by choosing the things most people don’t. Our plans aren’t dictated by “20 best things to do in Place X” lists found online or by what other people expect us to see. We make our own decisions and it feels like the only right way to do it, without the obligations.

Don’t get me wrong: there is nothing bad about wanting to go diving to the Great Barrier Reef or drive on the sandy beaches of Fraser Island – I would most likely do that if I had the opportunity. The tourist attractions are attractions for a good reason – but there is something even more awesome about doing the “rebellious” thing, the thing no one else does. The things we want to do and see.

Also, I think somehow, as the world is so interconnected and the Internet allows us to see most of the world attractions, seeing the random things becomes the thing while traveling – to see things you cannot find online. To see the odd vehicle memorabilia museum next to the gas station in a small village or chatting about writing with an elderly lady in the twilight at a rest stop.

For many, this might not feel like the way they would like to travel, like it seemed to be for the German couple. Some people prefer to have some control over their plans, a schedule to hold on to. I get it – I’m like that when it comes to certain things. For us, however, traveling without ‘must-sees’ seems to be the best way to do our Great Australian Road Trip.

When we don’t plan ahead, we get the ultimate freedom of being on a road trip. By letting go of control and expectations, we stop restricting ourselves from giving opportunities to random things.

So, in case someone in the future wonders out loud why we didn’t see “any of the sights” while we were in Australia, I won’t feel bad. Instead, I’ll recall all the odd, beautiful things we encountered on the road while lightheartedly driving from one location to the next without plans, without schedules, and without the pressure of following in the footsteps of most tourists.

 

Experiencing As the Opposite of Writing

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After writing last week’s troubled blog post about my writing-not-writing situation, two quotes came to my mind.

Somehow, it seems, my brain thought it was time for me to do some changes so it picked these quotes from the long shelves of thoughts and memories, giving me a perspective on my current writing situation.

Funny enough – the quotes have made a difference.

Let’s just dive in and start with the first one. The quote is by Benjamin Franklin and goes like this:

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

If you have read my posts from the previous two weeks, you know I’m longing for writing something worth reading. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past year and half, writing almost daily – fiction, journal entries, blog posts. It’s what I know and love.

But now, as Mr. Franklin/my brain conveniently reminded me of, I’m doing something worth writing.

Or am I – really?

Learning About Prioritizing

Because –

I wonder if one can travel great lengths without actually doing anything worth writing about. Just linger, wander, pass curious details and interesting human beings without really seeing them and taking in their existence – and if I’ve done just that.

You see –

During these past months of travel, I’ve been looking for opportunities to write and been disappointed when day after day I haven’t had the possibility to do so. I’ve been having many negative thoughts of what I should be doing and what I’m not and, to be honest, it has consumed me and my energy.

And as I’ve been in this gravel pit of negativity, I wonder if I’ve actually given myself the chance to enjoy and experience, to take the days as they come.

However, the thing to realize here is that in the mode of experiencing, to write or not write becomes more like a side product of that mode. You have to be willing to ease on the writing part of being a traveling writer and focus more on experiencing.

But I haven’t let that happen.

I’ve kept writing as my main mode, my first priority, and that just may have hindered me from it’s opposite – experiencing.

Experience Requires Patience

This is where I’d like to introduce the second quote my brain reminded me of. It’s from a film called Stuck In Love I saw earlier this year (a movie recommendation for those looking for films about writing – it’s not a super awesome movie but it’s about writing and that’s the best thing about it).

A writer is the sum of her experiences.

When I was little, I read a fantasy book called The Prophecy of the Gems by Flavia Bujor. It was Bujor’s first (and only) book but the thing that made it cool was that she was only 14 years old at the time. I was amazed by her young age and, as I already at that point had my dreams of becoming a published author, thought I could do the same.

But the thing is, it is very hard to write about themes such as love, loss, freedom and loneliness if one has never experienced those things. No matter how much I would have wanted to write a publishable book at the age of 9, I don’t think I could’ve done it because I didn’t have enough experience of the topics that make books feel real.

Becoming experienced in this thing we call life takes time and waiting out time takes patience. And during that time you shouldn’t just sit and wait but experience, instead.

And even then, you’re not done.

Even though I feel I’m somewhat more experienced than I was at the time I read Bujor’s debut and could put together a realistic novel, at the same time I realize I’m not done experiencing.

There’s so much more to learn about life’s quirks that I haven’t gotten to yet.

I believe one of those quirks has been presented to me during these last couple of days.

The Lesson To Learn

I don’t think it’s too late for me to switch my focus and re-organize my priorities. Even though writing is one of the most meaningful things in my life, I can let it rest for a while – that doesn’t mean I will never get back to my writing routines and never become a published author.

I just have to be patient, give time to this period in my life. Remember that experiences give me something to write about.

And even though I’ve been obsessed about writing-not-writing, I think I’ve squeezed in some experiences and observations:

I have used my senses in the desert landscape of Northern Australia: seen the drought, felt the heat and sweat in the small of my back. I’ve heard the wind rustle through the dry hay, smelled the smoke coming from forest fires, tasted the refreshing water after a hike.

During the long days of driving, I’ve had time to listen to audiobooks and in the evenings, listened to audiobooks or read fiction. Thought about my own works of fiction, the characters and what makes a book feel real.

I’ve had time to think of who I am as a person and as a writer, thought about what life’s meaning really is about and if it’s necessary to find something that feels meaningful or if the meaningfulness of things already exists there or here, I just can’t see it yet.

So I’m already on a good path here – I just need to be patient and forgive myself for not writing.

It won’t be an easy switch to just ”forget” about writing and only write when the opportunity presents itself. And I need to be careful not to put too much weight on experiencing and instead just take the experiences as they come.

This road trip might be about learning to enjoy, to experience without stressing out about experiencing, and write when the opportunity presents itself – but not force myself to do anything.

If I learn that, I might have an experience on my hands really worth writing about.