Should I be writing about Spain?

Dear all,

I had two friends visit me this weekend past. It was both a long and short weekend. When I say it was long I mean it in the physical sense, they arrived Friday and left Tuesday and when I say it was short I mean it in the mental sense, it felt as if they had only just sat down on my terrace and cracked open the first beer before they were off for the airport again. As per all great times, they fly by and are over before you know it. It was great seeing them as I hadn’t seen any of my friends since back around Easter time then another three month before that. The next time I will see my friends is when I arrive back home for Xmas.
            If you follow me on Twitter you would have seen the photo of my fridge that I had filled to capacity with beer. I got a bit over-excited. There were ninety cans and by the time they left there were 20 and if you consider we spent every evening out you can understand why I am feeling slightly under par as I write this. I’m still in recovery mode. It wasn’t all debauchery of course; in fact, it was extremely well behaved excessive drinking. We had a lot to catch up on and it wasn’t just about hitting the bars. We visited the towns around us and I showed them as much of the area and the sights as was possible over a weekend.

Seeking inspiration? … or a bar that is still open?

Now I realise this isn’t a diary and you have no desire to listen to me talk about how much fun it is to reminisce with friends while inadvertently promoting irresponsible levels of alcohol intake so what I thought I would write about today is one of the little things that I was reminded of during the weekend. A lot of the people I have met here (I am living in Spain this year) have asked me the same thing and so when my friends asked me as well it reminded me I should blog about it.
Am I writing about Spain?
The answer is no, I’m not, and I’m not really worried about starting either. I may be making a mistake and I may come to regret it but I currently feel very positive about what I have achieved this year in relation to my expectations. A lot of the reasons I came here were not related to writing, it was more a search for personal fulfillment and that terribly sounding mystical word, ‘healing’ which I hate using in this context because of the overly spiritualistic/religious overtones to it but I guess I have to admit that I do mean it this time. I wanted to think about my life and focus on what I will be aiming for in the future. Although I have a few months to go yet I actually feel I have done this. I feel great and practically a different person compared to the state of me this time last year. I feel very positive in general so I’m not worried that I may come to think back on this period and wish I had worked (wrote) harder because as of right now, I feel I worked as hard as I could and took the time I needed to relax, think and prepare for a new stage in my life. That was my number one priority coming out here and I’m not going to beat myself up for not spending more of my time writing. I have my whole life to do that (which is one of the things I have become certain of while here and it’s a fantastically happy feeling).

            However, I cannot pretend that I didn’t have some writing goals. I did. I wanted to get a good way into some short stories and my first novel. I’ll update you where I am on those another time. What I didn’t have coming out here was any intention on writing a ‘Spanish’ story or indeed looking for inspiration of any kind. Let me explain.
            I have had a lot of ideas since I started making notes in my teens and as I have blogged about before it was only a few years ago I committed to making a go of it and actually writing properly with an aim to publishing. After going through all of my notes I found myself sitting next to a pile of ‘possibles’ and I really needed to start writing in order to know if the ideas were any good and could become something. Since then I have committed myself to some of those ideas (and binned several handfuls…) and I have an absolute tonne of work to do in order to finish them all. What I haven’t done for a good year or more is to simply sit down and think up new ideas. The stories I am working on often generate new ideas as I’m progressing but that is not the same as letting your mind free and trying to conjure up something from nothing.
When it comes to making-notes, I used to love going out on a walk or a bus ride or a train journey, my pen and notebook to hand, and simply jotting down whatever came to mind. There was no particular intention other than to come up with something interesting. I could be listening to people around me, I could be people watching people from the other side of the street (in a non perverted way please! And believe me sometimes I do worry about that, perhaps I should blog about this another time, the process of people-watching), I could just be closing my eyes in the park and seeing what pops into my mind or staring into the clouds and seeing what forms. You never know what may end up on the notebook come the end of the day.


So the question is, why when I have all this open air, beautiful countryside, sea, sand, mountains, hills, beaches and new towns and cities to explore, am I not writing down every single thing I do and see?
      That for a second makes me uncomfortable. I am now panicking seeing those words and thinking, ROB! What have you done, all those places you have been to, all those festivals and fiestas, those people you have met, those restaurants and bars, those historical sites, etc. etc. Why didn’t I make notes?
     The truth of the matter is I didn’t come here for that. I came here to enjoy myself and allow myself to experience all these things for the pure joy of it. I had no motivation to go only because I could write about it. That never came into my mind. I wanted to write but I wanted to finish what I had already got stored up. I didn’t want to start anything new because that is not where my head is.
However, saying all that. I have blogged while I have been here, I have taken lots of photos (I have put some up on Flickr but I will put most up when I am back and perhaps create a new Pinterest board too, so please do follow me on those sites if you want) so I have some memories recorded…but for the main part everything is just in my head. All of the lessons I have taken with my friends Jose and Gabi, all of the walks I have taken, all of the football games I have watched, all of the bars I have tried out, the times I have been swimming, the times I have been to the gym, the times I have been running…all of the moments that have made up this year haven’t been lost.
       I honestly felt that my time here was not about inspiration, it was about putting the hours in to get some work finished. I wanted to sit at my desk and write. I didn’t feel I was searching for a topic, a theme, an idea…I had work to do and I wanted to get on with it.
       I know memories are not that reliable. I realise that if I wait thirty years then my time here would have faded and some of the more subtle moments would be forgotten, but that’s okay. I intend on writing a round up essay in December when I get back on my time here. I will see if I can evaluate my year. That will be enough for me.

The thing about making notes is the immediacy of it. You see an eccentric character you jot down there and then the reasons why they are eccentric. You can make notes of specific shades or tones of colours rather than just ‘blue’ or ‘red’, etc. and you can detail clothes more accurately than if you think back hours or days later. You can record the small things like the particular type of glasses other than just writing, ‘they had glasses,’ really get the detail and the information that makes it realistic in the re-telling. You can record speech and not rely on having to try and recreate the ‘gist’ of it later.

I like to think that one day I will write a story based upon my experiences here but at the moment I have no idea what form it will take and how I will approach it. I’m not ready for it yet. I like to think that in several years time I may speak a conversational level of Spanish so perhaps that will make my writing better, perhaps I should wait for then at the minimum?  I don’t feel I should attempt a story based solely on the fact I am at a certain place therefore I should write about it. I would want to do my time here justice and I feel I need to be a better more experienced writer before attempting it.
        There is no doubt that I have been inspired. I don’t want to make out my year has been dull and I’ve just sat indoors writing on the laptop all day. Far from it, I have loved experiencing new things and I have taken a lot from it.  Believe me, my friends are going to be sick of the sound of me going on about all the things I have seen and done. I think that just by being around different people and engaging fully with their way of life that you cannot help but be inspired to learn, to adapt, to interact and to work harder in life. The concept of going abroad and only speaking to fellow English people or only eating English foods (and by English of course I mean Indian…the curry houses of South East London better be prepared for me when I get back, I honestly don’t know who I want to see first when I return, my mother, or The Star of India?) or of only going to the ‘British’ pub was never my intention. If being immersed into a culture means by definition you are inspired by it then by all means, I have been inspired. I like to think I will take some Spanish culture back home with me and it will stay with me for life (plenty of mañana-mañana jokes there I know but I’ll save that for another time) and should that one day turn out to be that I will write a novel set in Spain then fantastic, I look forward to it. It’s just that I don’t feel ready for it yet. That’s not to say while I am writing I may think up some ideas that could come in very handy, a Spanish character here and there, Spanish food, Spanish music, Spanish traditions and so on, I’m sure there will be occasion to put those in, but writing a ‘Spanish’ book is very different.

So I guess this blog is me trying to justify how I could possibly spend a year in another country, call myself a writer in the making, and not feel compelled to write about my experiences. If you are a writer and reading this, I’m sure you may go on holiday for just a week somewhere and be telling yourself the entire time how wonderful it would be as a setting, what a character the hotel owner would make for a protagonist, and so on, but it hasn’t worked like that for me. I have had a fantastic time and I have got a lot out of it but I haven’t been inspired in that same sense. It is a much longer term project for me, I had so many things I wanted to get from this trip and I feel I have nearly got them. I feel fulfilled and happy and I also feel very proud of the work I have done on my existing to-do list and my own personal state of being.
        It’s a bit of a shorter blog this time (did I mention my two day hangover?) but one I wanted to write while the question was still ringing around in my mind. After all, it is a perfectly natural thing to think. If a friend of mine was a writer, novice or otherwise, and they travelled to another part of the world on their own I would immediately think of the impact on their writing and if it were a quest for inspiration but in my case I hope you forgive me for saying I was perfectly happy to take a year: and just chill the hell out! I may not have made the most of it in terms of what was possible, but in terms of what I was after, what I hoped for, I cannot complain. I don’t regret it for a second and I genuinely feel it has changed my life for the better. I’m sure somewhere, somehow and someday it will reflect in my writing.
Take care,

Barnes & Noble

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