A 23 minute journey

Note: This post was written as a response to the final exam essay question for the writing and editing course I am currently completing. Each of us had to reflect on the work we had completed this semester. 

In 1903, the Wright brothers did the world a solid by inventing the first successful airplane. Orville and Wilbur took the thrill of travelling across countries, continents and seas and transcended it into a different zone altogether. 11 years later, the first commercial flight took place. It was a short 23 minute long flight between Tampa and St Petersburg in the United States with the plane flying only 15 meters above about 30 kilometres of bay waters. It was short, but this 23 minute journey completely changed the face of travel.

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Internet meanderings: John Simpson’s top 10 columns

I know I’ve fan-girled over John Simpson’s travel columns in previous posts but I feel like juuust one more shouldn’t hurt.

I first came across Simpson, a 70 year old foreign correspondent and World Affairs Editor for the BBC, while paging through the South African version of British Airways High Life. It was a “Letter from Baghdad” column and when I came across it my first instinct was “merp” as I am not really one for war type articles. By some chance I ended up reading it and I’ve been hooked on his “Letter from..” columns ever since. Continue reading

My Paris rooftop

The Seine and Notre Dame on a crisp, foggy Winters morning in Paris, 2010.

The Seine and Notre Dame on a crisp, foggy Winters morning in Paris, 2010.

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

The search for self-belief and faith in their talent is a struggle many writers face. It’s an incessant niggle of doubt in the back of their heads making them wonder if they’ll ever produce something worthwhile again.

Hemingway’s reassurance of his ability came from looking out over the rooftops of Paris. The only things visible from my window are the mottled, brown roof slats on the house next door. So my reassurance comes from somewhere else. Continue reading

Living the high life

I hate flying.

That’s a lie. The up-in-the-air part I can handle; it’s the take-off and landing that turn my stomach into a cesspit of anxiety.

Earlier this year, I experienced the worst landing of my life. As Emirates flight EK 306 approached the landing strip at the Beijing International Airport it descended down as unpleasantly as possible. When I was younger during thunder storms, I was quite the wuss. My aunt Maggie would calm me down by telling me that the big bangs were simply God rolling potatoes down the stairs. “Why would God be doing that?” I would ask. She didn’t have an answer but it soothed me none the less. During that landing it felt exactly as if the plane was one of those potatoes bouncing its way down through the smog-ridden Chinese sky.

That flight made me even more of a nervous flyer (Well, take off and land-er).

My ambition in life is to be a travel writer and travel usually involves flying (unless I’m resigned to travelling by foot, car, camel and/or boat— actually don’t even get me started on boats. That’s a whole other post). So, you may ask, how the heck do I plan on making the ‘travel’ aspect of my ‘travel writer’ plan work? Continue reading

Diary of a mad blocked woman

She lay sprawled across the couch with her notepad wedged under her right shoulder and a pen hanging limply between her fingers. Fingers which had grown cramped and numb from hours of scribbled phrases, scrawled out notions given up on half way through and scratched out inklings of ideas.

She stared dejectedly up at the ceiling.

The plain, beige paint, usually so banal and ignored, now grabbed every inch of her attention. Tiny cracks in the plaster carried her eyes from corner to corner. The brushstrokes left behind by some forgotten painter become intensely intoxicating in the milky, white light seeping across the roof from the long, industrial looking light bulb in the kitchen.

“I need to start this assignment.” She thought forlornly.

The monkey on her shoulder was back again. Its whispered threats of failure and disappointment became an incessant track on loop which thumped ceaselessly at her eardrums.

The monkey’s fervent threats stirred up a droplet of panic within her. It was a droplet which steadily grew inside the spot in her chest, just below her sternum and just to the left of her heart, which was especially reserved for moments of mounting unease such as this. A spot which had, over time, become increasingly familiar with situations of anxiety brought on by the uncomfortable thought of failure.

The pressure in her chest made her shift; subconsciously trying to shake the unremitting monkey off of her back. Paper from the discarded notepad crumpled under the movement. The sound was a crisp reminder of the work she had not started, of the assignment she had yet to complete, and of the task she could fail.

She shifted again.

Re-tensed fingers gripped once more onto the pen.

She sat up.

She tried again. Pen touched paper and a blotch of black ink oozed out of the overworked nib. But nothing worthwhile oozed out of her mind.

The page remained blank. She was blocked.

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Just as human beings across the earth will argue about the existence of God; writers will argue about the existence of Writers Block. Continue reading