Richard Tillinghast, in his interview with The Pinch for the Spring 2012 issue, wrote that there is an intoxication that sets in when you visit a country for the first time. You’re amazed by the differences: the food, the architecture, the people, the languages. Those differences you see both help inform how you experience the place you’re in, while also giving you a different perspective on where you’ve come from. He said keeping a running journal as you’re walking around, jotting down thoughts, things, people, etc. you see, can read a little like poetry.
After writing a whole post on why writers should travel, I’m now practicing what I’m preached by staying a month in Spain for a creative writing study abroad program. I arrived in Madrid on June 1st, stayed there until June 3rd, and then took a train to Alicante, where I’ll be until June 28th.
Writing so far has been difficult. I’m very much out of my element. Writing worked best for me at 7 in the morning, coffee in hand. In Madrid, I had to first adjust to jetlag (which took a couple of days), and then I simply had no time because I had a limited window of time in the city and I HAD to run around and see everything (Best thing I saw: Picasso’s “Guernica.” Wow.).
Now, I’ve been in Alicante two days, and the class started yesterday. We have our first writing “assignment” due tomorrow, and we’ll see if something comes up. Spain works on a different set of time. They eat dinner late and wake up later, so 7 in the morning wouldn’t really work for me when we eat dinner at 8:30/9 at night. My host family’s home also only has WiFi in their living room, which means I’m around people or the TV is on whenever I’d be writing. I also don’t speak any Spanish, so it’s been hard for me to try to communicate with my host family, which is a really strange experience. Hopefully, I’ll pick up the language quickly.
I think I just need to fight against my conceptions of where I can be creative and Just.Be.Creative (this sounds like a bad name for a perfume…). This same experience happened when I was in Greece last year. I ended up jotting some things down and reading a lot, but I couldn’t write while I was there. Thankfully, the experiences soaked in and turned into some pieces later.
In other news, I came here on a high of good news. MayDay Magazine accepted my poem, “The Family Pet” (which I unfortunately don’t have a draft process for). Front Porch Journal , which I’ve been wanting to get into for some time now, e-mailed me to tell me they really liked some of my work that had been picked up by other journals and asked me to send in more ASAP. New York Quarterly also e-mailed me to tell me they had forwarded one or more of my poems to the second tier editorial board for further consideration.
I feel like I’m in the right place right now, and I’m curious to see what all will happen while I’m here. Have any of you traveled? What have been your experiences with it as it relates to your writing?