Book Review: Writing Away

Writing Away:  A Creative Guide To Awakening The Journal-Writing Traveler, by Lavinia Spalding

This book is disappointing, in that I expected this book to celebrate the process by which one can gain insights on better travel writing (something I do from time to time), when instead the author was trying to promote a particular type of journal writing approach that I do not happen to share, largely because as a writer I happen to have a much different approach than the writer does.  Indeed, where the author prefers writing by hand on unlined paper and encouraging the writing to be private, but at the same time preserved for posterity’s sake, I tend to be the sort of person whose writings are public (if not particularly popular) and tend to be type-written (for sake of fluency as well as legibility) while maintaining the sort of candor that the author appreciates but is also somewhat ambivalent of.  This book did have at least some useful information, but unless you want to write a journal that happens to be for one’s travel, this book is of limited interest if travel writing that is done computer-first is your intention, and that is clearly the case for me personally.

This book is a relatively short one at less than 250 pages and is divided into 13 chapters and other material.  After an introduction the author encourages the reader to buy a journal and begin writing (1) as well as finding and following a particular purpose when it comes to travel writing (2).  After that the author discusses the discipline and routine of travel writing (3) as well as how one can infuse one’s writing with techniques from creative writing (4).  The author discusses the importance of making one’s journal artistic (5) and also how one explores each moment by looking inward as well (6) as seeking to keep the love affair of traveling alive (7).  The author encourages the reader to practice improving one’s memory and observation skills (8) as well as embracing the mishaps that make travel more interesting (9).  After this the author discusses tips to free the mind to release more fluid writing (10) as well as having the courage to write what’s real (11).  After that the author talks about technology and the travel writer (12) as well as the return home (13), after which the book concludes with some journal prompts, suggestions for further reading, as well as some acknowledgements from the author.

For those who do like keeping pen and paper journals, this book ought to be an encouragement, and I can see this book being popular to stock in stores where such physical journals with elegant looks and unlined paper are sold.  After all, this book is not so much an encouragement about travel writing but is deeply concerned about the aesthetics of journal writing and is written by someone who wants journal writing to recover a place of honor and popularity among writing endeavors against the move towards technological forms of writing like the blog.  The author does not even seem to recognize that one can write on the computer without necessarily sharing it with the world or in fact with anyone.  One could even have private posts that one uses just for writing rather than for sharing, as I have done on occasion with some of more my more incendiary personal writings.  The author also appears to over-estimate the freedom many people have in taking so much of their limited storage with physical books that they have written.  There is indeed an audience for a book like this, but as is sometimes the case I am not really the ideal audience for it.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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