Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Shifting focus as a writer

I've been a bad blogger. I haven't written for a few days, and even skipped my regular Monday feature Websites for Writers. This was partly due to going on a Jesse James road trip around Missouri. I'm writing a series called On the Trail of Jesse James for Gadling. Check it out if you want the real story of America's baddest bad man.

The other reason for my silence is I've been getting deep into a new book proposal. It's a travel narrative about Harar, a medieval walled city on the border between the Ethiopian highlands and the Somali desert. I had an intense experience there and I'm writing a proposal in order to drum up funds to go back. I miss Ethiopia!

It's been a while since I've written a travel book that wasn't a guidebook. My very first book proposal back in 2001 was about my time spent at the Hindu pilgrimage of Kumbh Mela. I landed an agent, but she wasn't able to sell it and eventually dropped me. She was young, a very junior partner in an established agency, and I have a feeling she was in over her head. She certainly had piss-poor communications skills with yours truly, so I can't imagine she was much better with the publishers.

Despite this disappointment, I steadily climbed the writing ladder, writing a couple of guidebooks and then landing a regular history gig and a job as a travel blogger. Not a bad bunch of work, but I'm not content. Never be content as a writer or you're doomed. I've been wanting a change for a while now and was wondering why my fiction wasn't flying out of my brain like it usually does. Now I'm going back to what originally got me into this business: creative nonfiction about travel.

As writers we need to be flexible. Not only do we need to move with the market (if we're doing this as a living) but we also have to be flexible with our sources of inspiration. Right now my well of ideas for fiction is a bit parched, but I'm full of ideas for the Harar book. Instead of fighting it, it's best to embrace it. I suspect that I'll have several more shifts in the course of my career.


irishoma said...

Thsy'd great advice: Never be content as a writer.
Hope you enjoy your research on Jesse James in Missouri. Wishing you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.
Donna V.

Sioux said...

What is it about the people of Ethiopia that keeps luring you in? I would love to hear some stories...

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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