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The Vulnerability & Pleasure of Writing
I've never considered myself a bona fide writer. In fact, all the way through college and my corporate career, I would have much preferred speaking in front of hundreds of people rather than writing an essay or term paper.
That sentiment changed for me five years ago though, when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer and suddenly realized that writing was a way to channel my hopes, fears, frustrations, anger, and revelations.
Ironically, while I can recall talking about my dreams and aspirations – and even presenting a life plan - from the time I was 10 years old, I didn't really discover my true passions and innate gifts until I started writing in earnest.
To me, journaling provided a platform to be truly honest with myself and what began as penning personal reflections about healthy living turned into a regular column with Examiner.com, inspiration for starting Greenloons, and eventually writing for online outlets, like the Huffington Post.
It's been a wild ride that frankly can be credited to the generosity of genuine writers I've met along the way. A couple of weeks ago, New York Times contributor Caren Osten Gerszberg, asked me to participate in a "Blog Hop," in which writers share their views about writing. You can read Caren's column, Why (oh why) We Write here.
Below are my answers to the four questions that are hopping from blog to blog. Next week, two wonderful writers – Annika Hipple and Kristen Gill —will post their own responses to the four questions on their respective blogs.
1. What am I working on/writing?
Presently, I'm working on three digital travel series. The first is a "from the eyes of a child" series of articles about how travel helps to develop a child's sense of ecological and social responsibility. The series is based on my personal experiences traveling with my almost 9-year-old son to Africa and Europe.
The second series depicts the true social, economic and environmental impact of ecotourism on communities in Asia and Latin America. These are more cause-related stories that convey how a specific family's or woman's life has changed as a result of the ecotourism industry.
The last is an "eco-traveler's guide" series that provide a set of where to stay, where to eat, what to do, and how to share green travel tips for various destinations around the world.
2. How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
In many ways, my work with Greenloons and my writing has reflected my personal journey at a woman, a corporate professional, a mother and an entrepreneur. At first, as I endeavored to prove myself, my writing was quite professional, factual, and to be frank, impersonal. Then, my articles evolved to incorporate more practical ideas and insights.
I'm especially excited about how the "from the eyes of a child" and cause-related travel series are coming along, because they provide the foundation for some great story-telling combined with sensible tips.
Ultimately, I strive to genuinely empower people with my writing – whether it's the rural community that's investigating the viability of ecotourism as a revenue source, or the tourism company that's deciding the bottom line effect of sustainable operations, or the graduate student that's determining her green career options, or the traveler who just wants to explore the world in an environmentally conscious manner. – and I'm grateful to be given the opportunity to do so.
3. Why do I write what I do?
It's the sheer diversity of the subject matter that keeps me interested. Green travel – the science, the facts, the accountability, the misconceptions, the distinctiveness, and the potential – is a fun topic to explore and, at the very least, I hope to engage travelers about the beauty of ecotourism and change the travel industry's mainstream attitude toward sustainability.
4. How does my writing process work?
My process is still evolving, but what works for me is to keep my eyes and ears open (and my mouth shut - so as to keep the thoughts pure) for story ideas. Once I get the idea, I start to draft the outline, do my research, and formulate my questions. If the resulting draft is not interesting to me, I set it aside and wait for additional inspiration. Otherwise, I flesh out the outline and then wait for "good writing day". Lately, those days have come twice a week and always in the morning. After the article is complete, I let it percolate until the next "good writing day" comes along for final edits.
Here's a little more about my fellow "blog hop" writers...
Annika Hipple is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer specializing in travel, adventure, environment, sustainability, and history. She has contributed to a wide range of magazines, newspapers, and online media both in the U.S. and overseas. In addition, she helps travel companies and nonprofit organizations tell their stories through newsletters, website content, and other materials. A lifelong traveler, she grew up bilingual and bicultural, with two countries (the United States and Sweden) to call home. She has ridden a camel in the Gobi, braved the winds at Cape Horn, snorkeled with sharks in the Galapagos, ventured into ancient Egyptian tombs, tracked cheetahs on foot in Namibia, camped on a beach in the Ecuadorian Amazon, tubed through a cave filled with glowworms in New Zealand, and stood face-to-face with the massive moai heads of Easter Island. She blogs her travel photography on her website, www.annikahipple.com, publishes the Scandinavia travel website RealScandinavia.com, and is currently developing other blogging projects related to sustainable travel and history. Alongside her creative endeavors, Annika leads trips throughout the world as a tour manager and guide for a variety of travel programs.
Award-winning writer and photojournalist; Kristen Gill has been on assignment all over the world producing content for various publications, such as The Guardian; The Seattle Times; Adventure Travel News; Travel Weekly; SUP the Mag; and more. She blogged for the women's travel site Wanderlust & Lipstick for 7 years, and her travel pieces have appeared as radio segments on BBC's "The World" on National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International (PRI); and on CBS Travel Editor's Peter Greenberg Worldwide. She owns and runs Kristen Gill Media (www.kristengill.com) and has also embarked on a new project called Preserving Cultures (www.preservingcultures.com), a web site devoted to conserving indigenous culture via multi-media storytelling.
A freelance writer, blogger, editor and frequent contributor to The New York Times, as well as many national magazines and websites, Caren Osten Gerszberg blogs for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today. She also blogs about travel for Embark, a blog focusing on family and adventure travel. She is the co-editor of "Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up" (Seal Press), and the blog of the same name. For two years, she wrote a bi-weekly column, Mom U, for the New York Times education blog, "The Choice," about the parents' perspective of the college admissions process.