Set sail for a new city

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It was back in the summer of ’14 when I got my hands on the Los Angeles edition of Boat Magazine. The hazy rays that came through the window of the bar I was in seemed to go well with the dusky image on the front cover.

I opened the pages and started to read. Like a good book that you just can’t put down, I quickly found myself  drawn in as discerning articles told of the extraordinariness of ordinary individuals living in the city. But more than that, it was the delicate composition of words that captivated me and a seemingly heightened awareness of the subject matter that isn’t generally found in your average travel magazine. 

From then on, I was hooked and am now the proud owner of six issues of Boat. Not to be confused with maritime glossies, the word ‘Boat’ refers to the ‘floating’ nature of the magazine. Twice a year the team behind it pack up their office and head off to a new city to seek out the stories and the people that help mould a sense of identity about the place. 

The secret to this seems to lie in their approach; by inviting local writers and artists to present their own view of the city they call home alongside visiting contributors, the magazine is able to provide a perspective from both inside and out.  

Invariably, this makes for some pretty diverse reading. My favourite issue on Kyoto, for example, opens with a complex introduction to the city from a resident of 25 years, detailing the intricacies of society and its ability to assimilate new culture. Then follows a feature on ancient forestry practices that are kept alive by a few committed workers while further on, a delicate set of interviews shed light on the hidden lives of the homeless population. 

Yet, for all their individuality, what’s prevalent is a sense of intimacy and sensitivity towards the nuances of place, which threads everything together. The result is a compilation of writing that not only informs, but leaves you with a sense of having glimpsed an inner nature that not many travellers, maybe even citizens, are likely to encounter. This is what keeps me coming back to the magazine rack every six months and its also the reason I’ve kept every issue, so that I might take one out and dip into it, like bottled essence, should life in my own corner of the world become a little dull. 

Write like nobody’s reading

I recently put together a submission as a part of an application for a writing job. The process was a fairly straightforward one; write about something that inspires you and influences your practice. I opted to write about my current favourite magazine, Boat, as the theme and quality of writing always buoys me up 😉

However, a couple of weeks after I sent it off, I received a reply telling me it wasn’t quite what they were looking for.

Apart from the specifics of what was missing (insight and personal reflection should have been on the agenda) I realised I had once again fallen into a familiar mindset. It seems that lately, whenever I write, I become bent on just finishing the thing and getting it out there. I’m constantly rushing, whether it’s a short story or otherwise and find I often cut short the writing process just so I can say I’ve got something done.

Inevitably, the result is a finished piece, but hardly my best so it’s no surprise I’m not getting the answer I would like. In truth, I’m struggling a little with my identity as a writer. As time goes by, thoughts of ‘making it’ seem more fantastical than ever. Couple that with my mid-thirties fast approaching and the uncomfortable question keeps niggling away – is it make or break time? (Or just broke?) It seems as though the more I reach for it and the tighter my grasp, the further away a reality of accomplishment and satisfaction becomes.

So, for nobody but myself I rewrote the piece as if nobody is going to read it. Nothing to gain, just the truth according to myself. Hence, I’ve discovered a motto that I’m going to take forward this year and hopefully a different way of working; Write like nobody’s reading. Fitzgerald said something similar, but I can’t recall the quote. If anyone knows it, please tell me!