While I was on my trip last week, I got a couple chances to go out and look around downtown Chicago. I did this by deciding to run outside instead of in the gym, and though it wasn’t very comfortable because of the heat, it was worth it to see Milennium Park, which happens to be very close to the hotel where I was staying, and think about how cool it must have been to be there last November with all those people. I also saw some interesting article that I suspected must have been by Frank Gehry, but I didn’t have a good camera with me, so I didn’t take any pictures. Which is too bad because I think they would have been cool.
I’ve never been much for travel writing myself, but the thing with going new places or moving new places is that there’s a perspective you get for the first say, six months that you live somewhere new, and it’s like an outsider perspective that you retain before you become one of the natives. You notice stuff. You look around and evaluate your surroundings in a way that just doesn’t seem to happen after you’ve been somewhere for a while.
I remember when I moved to Los Angeles (the actual city, rather than just the surrounding communities, in which i’d lived growing up), I had all kinds of thoughts and experiences about LA that were bubbling over in my brain all the time. I would think about how the signs affected us, the traffic as a kind of lifeforce to the city, and I assure you that however hackneyed it may sound now, it was all very poetic at the time. The thing is, I didn’t write it down of course. I just thought it, entertained some vague ideas about maybe writing a book someday, and now when I try to go back and get those things, they’re lost. Because I cannot see LA as an outsider anymore, however much I might make fun of it or despise certain aspects of it, I’m a part of it now and my experience is woven into it.
Going to Chicago–a city I’ve been to before but not for a few years–reminded me of this. It seemed like all the stuff was begging me to write about it, or at least begging me to snark about it. Or maybe it was the wake of the conference? I don’t know. But it occurred to me that the value of blogging to the aspiring writer is that need to write all the time, if not every day then at least several times a week. It makes you better, even if you cannot see it all the time. And things don’t get away from you like they do when you just sit in traffic, thinking about how some day you will write it all down.
On the way to Chicago, there, and on the way home I was looking at everything and really seeing it for the first time in a long time. And I had all kinds of ideas. Which is good, because there are like three other conferences this year I’m going to have to go to, and if I have to take time away from my boys to go to them, it’s good to have a feeling like I’m on the right path.
Sometimes you have to step outside of your little zone to get inspiration. Sometimes you have to put yourself outside of the story to learn how to narrate it.