On Writing a Novel, the Climate, and the Challenges of Staying Put

I’m 328 pages into a novel. One that I’m writing. 

And boy, is it challenging.

Fun, engaging, inspiring, exciting, but ultimately challenging.

It’s a mental marathon of creativity that is, more often than not, all consuming.

That’s why, if I’m being honest, I don’t blog here as much: I’m too busy writing a damn book.

(It’s also, in part, why I changed my recent travel plans)

I’ve never been good at multi-tasking; I can only really do one thing at a time. Earlier this year, I took a part-time Swedish class and even though it was just once a week I found I couldn’t really do anything else, mentally. My brain likes to focus, to deep dive. Sometimes, that’s super helpful – like when I’m writing a book or living at a monastery.

When I focus on the wrong things, it can be, uh, less helpful.

(Fun fact: I used to play 12-hour video game sessions and I was so in the zone I wouldn’t want to waste time walking to the upstairs bathroom so I’d pee in the laundry room sink. Gotta stay focused, right?!) 

I’ve written a book before, which itself was a marathon feat. But it was a travel memoir, which was much easier to compose. After all, writing down your memories is a million time easier than creating an entire world from the fragments of wild ideas floating in the ether of your mind.

The novel I’m working on is about as far from a travel book as possible: it only takes place within a few square miles and there are limited characters.  

There’s no far-flung adventure to be had, no escaping to some exotic locale where the hero can finally get a chance to see the world. 

My book is about home and the fragility of normalcy. It’s about family and the inevitability of suffering. It’s about the consequences of living in a finite world.

Uplifting, I know.

 But it’s also about carrying on in spite of the pointlessness of existence. Which, these days, I think is a lesson worth hearing ad nauseum (or maybe that’s just me…).

 As travelers, we’re so often tempted to hit the road in search of something new. New foods, new smells, new people, new adventures. We want to go deep and not just see new things, but experience them. We want that depth, that nuance. We want to break out of our shell and have an adventure.

 Yet, more often than not, we don’t put in that same effort at home. Our interest in where we are from is usually more shallow and routine. We’re drawn to greener grass, yet forget that we happen to be wearing rose-coloured glasses when we’re looking at the map.

 I’m certainly guilty of this.

 I’ve seen more of America than Canada (where I’m from), more of Europe than Sweden (where I now live).

 As I’ve come to realize, the grass is not always greener. And as the climate crisis worsens, I think more and more people will start to look deeper at where they are from before they hop on a flight abroad.

 There isn’t a destination out there that doesn’t have something to offer — including where you are. You just need to look deeper. As I’ve said before, adventure is a state of mind.

 Sure, it’s an easy state of mind to conjure when you’re in a new, culture-shocking destination, but that’s just it: it’s easy.

 Travel isn’t about doing what’s easy. Travel is about learning. It’s about growing and connecting and learning.

 And you don’t need to book a flight to do that.