When I have writer’s block

I have only realised recently that, when I have writer’s block, it’s not because I am not focused on my story, but because I am too focused. If there is pressure to write, I simply can’t do it. The words jam in my mind like a blocked drain, with water building up and straining to bursting point. The best words come to me at the most inconvenient times; usually as I am just dropping off to sleep, out and about with friends, at work, or in the middle of doing a hundred different jobs. They come to me in a furious flurry, driving into my head until I can’t ignore them anymore, and have to write them down. Then they shimmer on the page, and my mind rages as inspiration begins to flow. Writer’s block is like a river dam, broken down only by a sudden gush of uncontrollable revelation.

When I’m away with the fairies – making up random characters in my head, giving them personalities and emotions, relationships and secrets – that’s when the cogs in my mind begin to turn. When I’m in a world of my own, daydreaming, night dreaming, half-listening whilst scribbling doodles absentmindedly, the cogs are turning, cooking up new adventures for my naïve characters. Creating enemies and lovers, trustworthy friends and unruly scallywags. When my mind begins to slip . . . ever so slightly . . . down the rabbit hole . . . that’s when everything becomes shiny and exotic. The slumbering adjectives and verbs begin to rouse, the thisckles and scillywocks awaken, and the mythical creatures and angry tyrants stretch and yawn. Myths and legends solidify to truth, the adventurers line up at the starting mark, and the story begins.

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Can I get a ‘HELL YEAH!’?

Ever had that moment when you’re browsing online, perhaps trolling through social media on your phone, when suddenly something so wonderful appears that it simply cannot be ignored? It leaves your thumb hovering in mid-air like some ungainly fleshy insect that has forgotten how land. It seems to hum, or maybe that’s just your thumb beginning to shake from hanging in mid-air so long. I’m talking about a simple thumbnail image of a place unknown, glowing artificially through the screen, reflecting in your widened eyes like a beacon of starry-eyed possibility. Because the place is beautiful, exciting, entrancing, intriguing, mysterious, unknown…

 

Your senses begin to awaken. The want. The yearning. The wanderlust. You must find this place, this unknown place that has caught your eye, locked your mind, electrified your heart, and hurled your senses into overdrive. You take a hasty screenshot of the place, and flick to your contacts list. You scroll, scroll further. Who will you choose? Who will you take on this adventure? Scrolling, more scrolling. Always broke, always ill, always working.

 I don’t know… How much would it cost? How far away is it? How would we get there? When will we go? 

I don’t know. I literally have no idea. But I don’t care. We’ll make it work. We’ll take the train, the bus, a car, save up money – plan properly. But right now, I don’t care. We’ll make it work. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and all that. Let’s have a picnic in a forest! Let’s sing to the stars! Let’s get lost in a foreign city! Let’s fall in love with people, places, things, moments! Let’s run through the night and breathe, really breathe for once. Let’s just go. This is the time for excitement, anticipation, exploration!

But no. Questions, questions, questions, contaminating the excitement until it crumples into a subdued possibility. One day, we say, when we’re less busy. The image drops into the infinite backlog of photographs. Wishes and memories all bound together to peruse while sitting at home; on the bus; to sneak glances of at work; to sigh over, whilst getting ready for bed.

Memories become wisps, wishes become pangs of regret.

Just one day, I wish that someone would be spontaneous with me. It used to happen, during watery dawns and shivering twilights, star-spangled nights and sunshiney days. Then life caught up, and reality claimed us once more. We were enveloped into the rat-race and set on an ever-circling track. Round and round with no exit, other than throwing ourselves into the abyss.

Except our minds remain our own. Our hearts and hopes beat in a unique drumbeat of curiosity. We know it’s not enough, this endless cycle of grey travel to grey offices with grey people. We know. Deep down, we all know. Yet still nobody will be spontaneous with me. First come work, house, money, time. Then adventure, if we’re lucky.

That’s just not good enough for me. I feel restless, so restless. I need spontaneity sometimes. Not constantly, but sometimes it’s good to rock the boat a little. I don’t want all those exciting images to go to waste, I want to live and breathe them, and inspire others to do the same. Problem is, I don’t want to do it alone. I could go by myself, as so many others do. But I don’t want to, as I thrive so much more in company. Just one person would do; a security, a buffer, a friendly face to share the experience. But no, once more I am forced to add the enticing picture to the hundreds of other backlog images, gathering dust until they themselves turn grey.

What can I do? What can I say? Let’s just go! Let’s just stay…

All I want is one person who, instead of dragging up anxieties, will say ‘Hell yeah! Let’s go!’ It might take days to plan, it might take months, but all I want – all I yearn for – is someone to really feel that adrenaline rush of wanderlust, same as me.

I live in England, let’s face it, in a couple of years travel abroad will be a whole lot more difficult… So why wait, why settle now? Why not take the chance while it’s there? I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so if anyone does crave an adventure like me, please get in touch. Everyone needs an adventure sometimes, whether or not they realise!

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Fine Dining in the Black Forest

As I sit here, on the first properly sunny day of this year, I can’t help thinking that today would be perfect for a picnic. I have always loved the idea of picnics, perhaps from my eternal fascination with the Mad Hatter’s tea party, or maybe the idea of conjoining one thing I love (food), with another (being outdoors). Either way, this thought took me to one of the most special picnics I’ve ever had – I would even go so far as to describe it as ‘breath-taking’ – in the Black Forest, Germany.

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Driving through the Black Forest

This was my first trip to Germany, and was quite the flying visit, given that the whole trip involved traversing five countries in two weeks. I like to call it a ‘sneak preview of Europe’, because those two weeks were definitely not enough to sate my wanderlust. I will write about all of those experiences in time, not necessarily in order, but when the time feels right to rediscover those memories. To be frank, it may be several years before I can bear to stomach some of the more uncomfortable and downright cringe-worthy experiences (I’m talking motorway breakdowns and minor sunstroke, alongside ‘ga-ga’ Satnav and misplacing the odd thousand euros). But all will come in time, I promise.

So, here we were in the Black Forest, trekking along a fantastic route filled with waterfalls, zig-zagging back and forth around the great expanse of leafy green; being dazzled every few steps by sunshine, which resolutely broke through the thick layer of foliage to throw a golden hue over the ecosystem below.

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A proper cascade!

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It flowed in rivulets from the top of the mountain to the floor below

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This is where we were. If anyone would like to enlighten me, feel free to translate the phrases for the ignorant English girl!

Having reached the top of the zig-zag path, I decided we were high enough to have a decent view whilst picnicking. Our diet for the two weeks was a rich supply of ham and cheese sandwiches, which we varied daily by choosing an assortment of meats and cheeses. (Since then, suffice to say, I could probably count the amount of said sandwiches I’ve consumed on one hand, but when you’re trekking through forest and mountainous regions all day, believe me, it becomes quite a delicacy to have almost all major food groups in one meal!) The important aspect of the picnic of course had little to do with the food here, but rather the environment and view! That said, I do sort of wish I’d taken just one snap of those oh so faithful ham and cheese sarnies…

Anyway, stomachs grumbling, we found ourselves on a slightly less beaten track. Of course we followed this, treading with a newfound, strange expectation. A few minutes later, I saw a break in the trees ahead – a clearing – good, I thought. I sped up, something other than the yearning for today’s salami and edam concoction urging me forward. Then the path ended. That was it, we couldn’t walk another step. Not because we were content with the spacious clearing we had found, or because we were simply too hungry to wait any more, but because ahead of us lay nothing except a gaping drop and a deep valley basin, crammed to the brim and overflowing with forest. And, like some wondrous mirage sent as an offering from the trekking overlord, right smack bang in the middle of the clearing, lay none other than a picnic bench.

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View: 100/10, space: 10/10, privacy: 10/10, food: 4/10

I was stunned. This was it, the picnic place of all picnic places, the place where I could eat my sandwich and forgot the somewhat samey flavour, whilst surveying the dark, foreboding grandeur at my feet. So that was what I did. I munched and overlooked the kingdom below, pretending it was all mine, and that every leaf and branch, every pebble and stream, every waterfall and river was mine to appreciate and protect from civilisation.

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I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to create a new habitat and live in the forest forever, with or without my ham and cheese sandwiches.

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Unfortunately, such reveries are ephemeral, allowing only a glimpse of euphoria before reality drags us back and forces us to return to daily life. To our commutes, our offices, and the tantalising, bittersweet countryside views; the air blowing the fresh scents, heavy with pollen, on waves of summer air which glide through the window, remaining just out of reach…

…Until next time, when we will load up the car, pack the ham and cheese sandwiches, and hit the road in search of the next picnic spot. For what is life, but a series of intermittent distractions between meals. It all depends on how we make the most of those stretches, to open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the whole forest, as well as the individual trees.

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I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend, and I hope this post lends some inspiration to the upcoming picnic season!

The World Is Your Oyster!*

 *Evenings and Weekends Only.

On Monday 27th February, my life changed. On that day, I simultaneously gained and lost my freedom. I lost the privilege of time, but reached a milestone which will open up a wealth of opportunity. In a nutshell, I joined the 9am-5pm crew. I began a full-time job in a sector related to my degree – something I feel very proud to have achieved, considering my subject was based in the arts. For the foreseeable future my life will now roll along in unison with commuters all over the world; rising at 7am to begin the hour plus commute to work, before returning nine hours later to eat, shower, and crash until the next day. Then replay. Over and over. I am content with this arrangement, yet I have begun to wonder… When will I have time for my other passions? Reading, writing, hiking, exploring, travelling, all time consuming activities which will have to be sidelined.

I’m 23, everyone I talk to tells me ‘The world is your oyster! Get out there!’ Except it’s not now, is it? I can’t get out there because first I must eat, wear clothes, buy bus and train passes, pay for ordinary things like dentist and optician appointments, vet bills, phone contracts, etc. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my new role, but being fresh out of the sanctuary of the university bubble I realise there are several fun aspects of my life which will have to reduce, or at least be restricted to weekends and evenings. How do people balance work and play? Seriously, how should I do it? Staring at computers all day makes me reluctant to use my laptop later, which will affect my blog and writing. Getting home at 6pm means no leisurely woodland walks, no excitable planning for day trips away, and definitely no extended holidays. So what should I do? The world is supposed to be open for me to explore at this age, yet when will I have time?

So, there is some serious thinking to be done. I need to balance my two types of freedom, and simply make the world my oyster on evenings and weekends. I can plan for the weekend on my daily commutes, and read books instead of watching screens at home. And hey, of course I can still daydream. I doubt I could stop daydreaming if I tried. I will embrace my new job, and use my new salary to pay for trips to more exciting places! I’ve barely travelled to a handful of places on my wishlist, so I must find a way. I would love to hear how everyone else balances their work life with their personal interests, so any advice would be much appreciated!

Now go have an adventure!

Come For A Walk With Me

Come for a walk with me

We’ll go on a journey

Far far away

To the secret door at the bottom of the garden, and beyond…

To the waving rushes and long grass, in the meadow no one has discovered yet, and beyond…

To the forest of wonders, where the great oaks and ferns make a leafy, sun-pocked sky, and beyond…

To the beaches, where the sand is so fine it’s like tiptoeing on feathers, and the waves curl up to tickle our feet, and beyond…

To the caves of glistening gemstones… and they glisten like your eyes, orange and green and gold, and beyond…

To the deserts of nowhere, to lie on our backs and gaze and gaze until our eyes can take no more of the infinity of shining stars, just for us, and beyond…

To our dreams, where we fly together, fall together, rise together…

 

And back again.

Taking A Tumble… Off A Mountain (Part 3: Snowdon)

The final part of the trilogy will be comparatively easier to write than the former two, for the simple reason that there are no photographs to embed in the text. You may sigh here, perhaps your mouse will begin to drift to the ‘back’ button as you anticipate impending boredom… Here’s the thing though, I would have loved to include pictures – lots and lots of picturesque mountain ranges and windy paths and shapely boulders! But I can’t, because due to the horrific weather conditions in which we climbed, any electrical items exposed to the elements would immediately have perished. So basically, I have no evidence to show my successful climb of Mt. Snowdon. WHICH WAS DAMN DIFFICULT.

Therefore, I shall do my best to recount the grand finale (even though Snowdon was the first of my climbs) of my tale as succinctly and humorously as possible. Let me begin by saying Wales is a beautiful country. Made up of rolling hills and grassy glens, it is the definition of idyllic, the very image of Arcadia. However, all of that lush, green beauty must come from something, and that something just happened to nearly drown me several times within the week I stayed in Wales. Pro tip: no matter the season, take LOTS AND LOTS of waterproof gear with you, and backups! Travelling to Wales in August by no means promises sun, or warmth, or any sort of comfort whatsoever…

Anyway, the day we decided to climb Snowdon was drizzly, beginning much the same as my trek up Ben Nevis would, but this did not faze us. Perhaps it should have done, but having spent the past few days in a state of constant dampness, we figured we were virtually waterproof by now. Oh, how we were wrong. By the time we reached the starting point at the mountain, our waterproofs were thoroughly shined up with the continuous drizzle. As we began the climb, the light spattering became a curtain of rain, which developed into a hazy blanket of cloud. The vibrant countryside colours were sapped from our surroundings and replaced by a wave of grey misery, drenching us in a continual slow wave of rain. Oddly, it never occurred to me that I should turn back. Even as the wind worsened and began to buffet us left and right, making us stagger along the path and grab any handholds we could. Not even when we were forced to clamber across a waterfall threatening to overflow did the notion of turning around enter my mind. This was it, we were in it for the long haul. We were already soggier than we had ever been in our lives, turning back would make no difference.

Then came the scree. Endless piles of loose rock, all rocking and rolling at different speeds and directions. I couldn’t sigh, I couldn’t even cry. We were on our own. Anyone who had started out with us had long disappeared, leaving us the only two lunatics crazy enough to venture further into the suffocating abyss of cloud. Well call me crazy, but we made it. We found the trig-point by tripping over it, and clung to it with all our strength for fear of being blown off the summit. We were at the highest point in the whole of Wales, and boy, were we paying for our stubbornness. The wind had joined forces with the rain to make the ultimate stormcloud, and we were unfortunate guests of the mountain-rulers. Through the lashing rain and horizontal hail we managed to focus on each other’s faces for a moment. Exhaustion. That’s all there was, sheer exhaustion. We kissed, there and then at the top of the raging mountain. It wasn’t romantic, it wasn’t even heartfelt or long-lasting. It was a second of warmth in a sky of unfeeling. It was a gesture of togetherness, proof of our united strength in this time of stress and danger. Then it was gone, and without pausing to fathom our surroundings, we turned and tramped back the way we had come.

Sliding/climbing/half-crawling down the mountain was of course quicker than the ascent, more so due to the several newly crafted waterfalls spewing from previously unseen crevices, causing us to cross them as quickly as we could possibly wade. The actual waterfall we had passed earlier was unrecognisable. Instead of an exhilarating, lively stream, there was a roaring, unstoppable torrent, coursing straight through our path. Well, we couldn’t get any wetter…

Several days later we were dry(ish), though sadly my walking boots were never quite the same. Mountains are most definitely trials and, for me, Snowdon was the most difficult of the three peaks. One thing still grates on me though, and that is that I have no photographs of my trek. That leaves only one resolution really; I must climb Mt. Snowdon again and settle the score. I will also do my best not to end up inside a cloud, but I seem to have a fair knack for accidentally shrouding myself in smog. There are many more stories still to tell about my mountainous travels, but for now this concludes my ‘Taking A Tumble’ trilogy. If you haven’t read the other Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike editions, i’d love for you to give them a read. I promise there are pictures! Keep an eye out for more mountain stories (and other fantastical journeys), The Fairytale Traveller is restless for more adventure!

Taking A Tumble… Off A Mountain (Part 2: Scafell Pike)

This is the second installment of a three part story, a trilogy, if you will. In these short tales I regale my lovely readers with stories of my travels and ordeals upon mountainsides, adventures which have made me all at once extremely respectful and appreciative of Mother Nature’s sublimity and power, as well as her reverent beauty.

The month was February, almost exactly two years ago to the day. (I seem to remember a vaguely romantic, Valentine’s-induced idea of climbing a mountain with a significant other, traversing the wilds and conquering the peaks together.) Unlike the trip up Ben Nevis (see Taking A Tumble, Ben Nevis Edition), the weather was beautiful, and remained so for the duration of the climb.

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My first view of the mountains

Scafell Pike is located in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. Standing at 978m, it was a worthy opponent for the day. In reality it ended up being too worthy, but with the sunshine making the snow sparkle and warming the air to a delicious freshness, we felt that quite literally no mountain was too high to climb. We began the ascent, stopping frequently to marvel at the views.

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Sunny peaks

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English countryside in all its glory

I must admit, more than once whilst walking I imagined myself as a member of the Fellowship, on my own quest to live the fantasy dream. If there was ever a day to believe, really and truly believe in the power and magic of nature, it was that day. The scenery changed dramatically the higher we walked, and the snow grew deeper. At one point I decided to be ‘smart’ and follow along next to the path. This did not bode well as I suddenly dropped down a snow-filled dip, and found myself knee deep snow. As humorous as it was, I quickly learned my lesson!

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Our path through the snow

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This was exceptionally fun to slide down, not so much to climb back up…

It was a bizarre walk, trudging along in minimal layers despite the snow, thanks to the sun’s unseasonable warmth. The terrain changed yet again, and now we were moving across peaks instead of just up.

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“Far over the misty mountains cold…” (Lyrics from ‘Song of the Lonely Mountain’, Neil Finn)

I was a world away at this point, content to revel in my own fantastical thoughts, letting them take me away away… to unknown realms and parallel worlds, while my feet guided me onward and kept me grounded.

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What happened next I feel is best described through the lyrics of one of my favourite songs:

“Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea”,

‘The Last Goodbye’, Billy Boyd

Dusk fell, and we were nowhere near the summit. Time had been totally lost in the balmy air and the natural timelessness that comes with being among nature. We hadn’t properly taken into account the early sunsets of winter, or the treacherous prospect of descending a mountain in the dark. We were prepared for such events, but had somehow neglected to foresee the fast-approaching darkness. Then we saw this…

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A natural speech bubble!

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Frozen waterfall (one of many)

We watched ravens swooping around the lake, marveling at the majesty and effortlessness of their flight, envious that we were denied the power of flight. After standing for several minutes, we suddenly became aware of a chill in the air and a pink tinge to the sky. We decided to climb to the brow of the hill to best assess our route down. There was no way we could continue to the top now and, disappointing as it was, the walk had taken much longer than anticipated. (We realised at that point we had taken the longer, 8 hour journey, instead of the conventional 3 hour route.) I felt defeated, I had never not completed a mountain before, and after such a promising start it was crushing to have to turn away. But we had no choice.

With heavy hearts we began the last short climb, with every step the sky turning pinker and pinker with the sunset. We made it to the top of the hill and stopped dead. Words cannot describe the sheer, immense, raw feeling that overwhelmed me as I stared out over the edge of the mountainside. I can honestly say I have never seen a more breathtaking sunset as this one, perhaps because we were so high, and felt as if we were walking into the sun; perhaps because we felt like the only two people at the end of the world in this moment. We simply watched as the sun drifted lower, shrouding the peaks in a soft pink glow, making the sheerest of crevices soft, and banishing the treacherous path of our descent.

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We watched until the soft glow had disappeared, and then began a hasty descent. All disappointment at not reaching the summit was gone, any doubts over whether this had been a successful walk vanished. This had been the walk of dreams, and I had absolutely no regrets of not making it to the top. The photographs don’t do the scene justice by any stretch of the imagination, but they continue to inspire me in my travels, spurring me on in my ambitions to witness more incredible feats of nature.

This part of the trilogy is very much picture-based, a natural development, as I felt the photographs spoke so much more than any descriptive language I could write. If you take even just a snippet of  inspiration, awe, or simple enjoyment from this story, then I will feel content that I have portrayed these incredible mountains in as magical a light as I lived and breathed them that day. I returned to Scafell later in the year, and reached the top in three hours. Yet somehow it didn’t feel as special… although I was glad I succeeded. That day I learned there are many types of success, and I really cannot wait to see what other adventures lie in store for me. I do believe we make our own luck though, so if I have any say in it then I will make sure there will be much more beauty, sublimity, and magic!

If you haven’t seen the first “Taking a Tumble”, installment, i’d love if you would give it a flick through too. (I actually did nearly tumble off!) Watch out for the final “Snowdon” edition soon too 🙂