From Travel Writer to Story Cartographer

By Rachel Arandilla

 

I’M currently working on a book right now, which I’m struggling to finish.

The project has become a cumbersome, love-hate relationship, as I go back and forth with it, depending on my mood or the time of day.

“I think you’re really born a storyteller,” Justinne, my friend and fellow writer encouraged. “That’s why you’re given these experiences for you to tell.”

That was the problem: “blessing” and “curse” are made of the same raw material; and I found myself see-sawing between being the compulsive over-sharer and then editing like nuts as I freak over my privacy.

My problem isn’t writer’s block, but editing’s a real pain. I wonder how my editor has the patience to go through my stuff, because as I go through my writings I get annoyed at my younger self, whom I find vain and shallow and unthankful.

“All writers are vain, and the sooner you accept that the easier it’ll be,” Art, another author-friend of mine remarked.The little black notebook that I bring with me everywhere is filled with sketches of emotions, ideas and impressions as I traveled and lived around the world. The notebook is filled with nothing and everything; notes of random encounters with things that made me stop what I’m doing and think: “Hmm, I wonder what I can do with that?”

As I sift through my notes I did notice a remarkable change in tone and perspective. I noticed the self-transformation, as I evolve from cocky, to self-loathing, to becoming more aware, more centered. For one, I stopped being obsessed with the idea of being a chameleon.

Traveling was all about external stimuli. I had been too dependent on external environment to define my interests, my hobbies, my language, my identity, and when that was stripped off me, I was left as an empty shell with no principles to stand for.

How many years has it been, with me deafening my inner world just to accommodate new skins? Over the years, I realized I’d transitioned from travel writer to story cartographer. I was not writing about places, I was mapping the world with personal stories. I was transporting readers into a panoramic view of the writer’s psyche.

I was introducing readers to a cast of colorful characters I met in tropical islands and concrete jungles, characters based on transients who found me, who loved me, who broke me. The transients of my life, I could not change their minds, nor could I make them stay, but at least I made the lessons they taught me immortal.

It’s a never-ending journey but as I go through my work, I learned more about the world, but more importantly, I learned more about myself and my inner world.

And oh, what a colorful world.

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