1. New Ideas
One of the best things about travelling and/or living abroad is that it shakes up your life and introduces you to a whole new country, as well as new cultures,new experiences, and even a new social circle. In time these then influence your creative output and give you new things to write about. Before I left the U.K in 2008 I was dead creatively. I had nothing to write about. All that changed the moment I touched down on the tarmac of Incheon airport and began a year of teaching in South Korea. The Korean culture shocked me into writing poetry. I wrote about what I saw: the people, the markets, the food, the mountains. I was moved then and I continue to be moved now in China. Indeed, my experience living and teaching amongst the smog-filled streets of Beijing has led to me write an entire collection of sonnets called 'Made in China' which is based upon many of the working people that I have come into contact with.
2. New People
If you're a novelist like myself then creating vibrant, original characters for your novels is a must. Obviously, the truer to life your characters are the more believable they will be to your readers. The problem though is that with writing taking up so much of our time we often don't have enough time to get out and meet a wide array of interesting and colourful people. Travelling can solve all that. When you go and live in a foreign country the desire and need to not be alone and to fit in and become acquainted with your new surroundings drives you to go out and make new friends: friends who in the end have a way of flitting about your imagination when you are dreaming up new worlds and new adventures to tell. At the moment I am editing the first two of my Jack Strong novels and I can honestly say that of the seven main characters there are at least two or three people who I have met on my travels spinning around in each and every character. Amazing eh?
3. New Experiences
New experiences allow us to grow not just as writers but also as people, and so it was during my first year of teaching in Beijing - when I was overcoming challenges on an almost daily basis - that I began to dream up the character of Jack Strong. I wanted a character that was realistic and believable, someone who the reading public would want to read about and follow with interest; someone who though initially quite weak and timid would ultimately get stronger and GROW as a result of his experiences, not in despite of them. If I'd have stayed in the U.K and stuck to my boring civil service job and not done anything wild or adventurous I wouldn't have been able to write about Jack. Why? Because I needed to grow as a person first before I could adequately write about and relate to him as a human being.
4. New Landscapes and Cityscapes
Over the last seven years I've lived and travelled all over South Korea and China, as well as Vietnam, The U.S.A, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and France. All of these, especially the first two, have had a big impact upon my writing. As mentioned previously the cityscape of Beijing with its jagged outline and grey, urban masses flooded into my poetry soon after I landed. But it hasn't been the only direct influence. My single day in New York in 2010 was enough to force its way into my first novel, with the Alps and many South Korean and Chinese mountains providing the inspiration for many of the landscapes in Jack Strong and the Prisoner of Haa'drath. Indeed, it was whilst hiking a rugged section of the Great Wall of China that I got the idea for the super bouncy rubber forest that is a major feature of the aforementioned book. Could I have dreamt up these aspects of the Jack Strong universe without hitching a ride around Asia and the wider world? Perhaps, but I doubt it. When you are living many of the experiences that you are writing about it gives your writing an immediacy and a vividness that books and documentaries cannot satisfactorily provide.
If you would like to comment on any of the points raised within this blog post then please do not hesitate to do so. Also, if you would like to read about Jack Strong and his many adventures around the universe on a strange and magical spaceship then follow the link below: