Letter from America - maybe! by Sarah Nicholson

Due to all sorts of circumstances, I’ve not been on a plane for ten years, but finally this year I have a reason to fly. My nephew is getting married in the USA this month and I always thought very few things would stop me from being there.

That was before Covid and travel restrictions, fit to fly tests and passenger locator forms.

For most of this year I’ve been unsure if this trip would really happen. I’ve got used to planning with that niggling thought in the back of my brain that everything might just go pear-shaped. I hold everything loosely in my hand, waiting to see what direction the wind blows, if there’s a sudden gust I’ll shrug with a nonchalant “c’est la vie!”.  

They say travel broadens the mind and it only takes a few clicks online to come up with a plethora of articles on the subject.

I recently read Maggie O’Farrell’s excellent memoir “I am, I am, I am”. I am in awe of her adventurous travels but don’t envy the near-death experiences which she has strung together for her book.

She quotes Professor Adam Galinsky, an American social psychologist, who has studied the connection between creativity and international travel, but I will quote her own far more eloquent words as she describes travelling as “that unassailable flood of novelty, the stimulus of uncharted territory, the overload of the unfamiliar, with all synapses firing, connecting, signalling, burning new pathways.”

That makes me want to travel even more, my synapses need waking up and perhaps this will be the kick start I need to become even more creative and get fired up to write more, to bravely step out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams – eloquent words in deed!!!

With the pandemic unabating, travel, especially of the foreign variety, is becoming less straightforward and maybe with concerns over climate change that is actually a good thing, as we try to reduce our carbon footprint and lead a more sustainable life.

You can really tie yourself into knots thinking about all the pros and cons, the big issues. But the big question is if we travel less will our creativity suffer as a result?

In the back of my mind I seemed to recall another fact so at odds with this that I did a little bit of Googling and Wikipedia confirmed that “Stef Penney suffered from agoraphobia at the time of writing The Tenderness of Wolves, she did all the research in the libraries of London and never visited Canada.”

(I didn’t just rely on Wiki, I looked up the sparse interviews, Penney is rather reclusive.)

She was both applauded and criticised that she hadn’t travelled to do the research for her novel but she still won the Book of the Year in the 2006 Costa Book Awards.

I’ve always wanted to read it and as I’ve never visited Canada either, I won’t spot any geographical inaccuracies but instead will get caught up in the story.

Isn’t that what fiction is all about? Made up stories taking you to new places, perhaps even fabricated locations because obviously Tolkien never ventured into Mordor and J K Rowling didn’t attend Hogwarts.

So perhaps while travel is not an essential criterion for writing it is certainly a desirable one.

Now excuse me, I have a case to pack, covid tests to book and all those other critical tasks to complete before I even leave the house.

But if you are reading this everything has gone to plan, this has been posted as scheduled and I’ve not had to do a last-minute rewrite.

Fingers crossed!

Meme found on Facebook


Peter Leyland said…
That's interesting Sarah. Every work of fiction be it about rabbits, hobbits, the girl next door, or even the self is, I think, an example of storytelling. At the moment I'm trying out memoir, auto-fiction or Deborah Levi's idea of 'living autobiography to tell my stories. I hope your trip is wonderful.

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