I'm leaving tomorrow for Italy, and in the throes of washing clothes, packing, and making sure our Westie doesn't notice the suitcases, I think about the daily writing responsibilities I'll leave behind. The deadlines, the calls to editors, the interviews will have to wait until my return. But I did one thing I haven't done in years. I purchased a journal. I promised myself I would record every sight, every thought, every character I meet along the piazzas and alleys of the ancient towns we'll be visiting.
I always tell my workshop students the value of keeping a journal. It's not only semi-therapy, but it keeps you writing, improves your skills, and gives you fodder for stories. Well, "Do as I say, not as I do." But this time I'm taking my own advice. When you immerse yourself in your surroundings, your stories become richer and more vibrant. The characters jump off the page because you've met them in another form, up close, with lines on their faces and smiles on their lips.
I looked at my journal's cover last night, then flipped through the empty lined sheets. "Can't wait to fill you up," I whispered. I'm going to keep that promise.