Of Flying and Writing

of-flying-and-writingWhen over eight years ago I boarded the plane for the first time ever, I couldn’t help wondering whether I’d like flying. I still remember the first step I made on the steps leading up and the moment my other foot left the ground… My last step on the Polish ground for who knew how long: I was just about to immigrate to Ireland—excited, anticipating, maybe a bit worried—but I still couldn’t resist thinking of flying. After all, it’s the dreamer’s ultimate dream, isn’t it?

I’ll spare you the mundane details of getting settled in, and the rising excitement of the anticipated flight that dimmed even the “I’m leaving my country!” thoughts. And the take off moment turned out everything I wished for it to be. One moment we were on the runway, gaining speed, the next we lifted up in the air, and I knew that I love flying.

Over my eight years in Ireland I have flown multiple times. Short flights to Poland and long transcontinental flights to USA. I roamed the duty free shops desperate to find some orange juice, because that’s all my brain wanted at 4 am. I dozed off sitting on the floor by those very shops, when my gate was still unavailable and I had no place to sit. I even managed to take a wrong exit on Heathrow once and found myself lost in the crowd of people in the part of the terminal I wasn’t supposed to be. And I always remembered what my friends had told me: flying gets old quickly, and then only the tiredness remains.

I think I know what they mean, though my tiredness comes more from spending hours at the airports, not from flying itself (though if I’m unable to book the window seat and cut myself off from the world, the flight also becomes tiresome). But I still remember that one time on London’s Heathrow when our flight to Houston got delayed for nearly two hours, while the passengers had already boarded the plane. I was happy to just catch a bit of sleep, since connecting from Dublin meant I got maybe three hours of sleep the previous night, and I napped unconcerned through the waiting. But as soon as we taxied to the runway, my eyes snapped open. The excitement and the anticipation instantly took over, and I got to experience that exhilarating moment when the plane leaves the ground.

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When it comes to writing, the feelings seem to be similar. The excitement of putting the words down, the anticipation of what they’ll become, and that slight worry they won’t turn out as well as I hope. And then, the take off, the fun ride of imagination, when the idea gains speed on the runway of chapters to finally lift in the air, carry me into another world. In my mind, writing and flying are similar.

But there’s also another connection. The feeling I experience with every take off is exactly what I want to elicit in my readers when they turn the pages of my story. Even though my stories touch sometimes topics close or important to me, first and foremost I want my readers to enjoy the book. To have fun along with my characters, not to remember how cruel and unjust the life is. Sure, I want them on the edge of their seat, surprised by the plot twists, or anxious about my characters’ lives, but in the end I want them to walk away satisfied, not depressed. And if it means I don’t change the world or address that urgent issue the whole world is discussing, so be it. Let my stories be both escape and relax for those who need it, and if they want to be concerned about anything while they read, I’d rather it to be the problems of the worlds I’ve created than the most recent breaking news.

Because if there is any reason I write, it’s to relive the feeling of flying and to instill it in my readers: the sheer excitement of the take off, the writerly or readerly joy ride in the book amusement park. Let’s leave the world and its problems behind just for a while. Wars and arguments break out over opinions and judgments, not over the books we read.

And you? Why do you write?

9 thoughts on “Of Flying and Writing”

  1. What a lovely article, Joanna:). The braiding between the two experiences works really well, especially as flying is so frequently used as a metaphor anyway… And in answer to your question – I write because I have to and when I don’t write I turn into someone a lot less pleasant.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I wonder: what do _you_ think of flying? 😉
      Also, I can hardly imagine you as anything less pleasant. You come across as such a kind and warm person. I guess you need to keep writing then!

  2. Wow. I’d never thought about writing that way before… and it makes sense.

    Why do I write? Because I love it, and I know it’s what I’m meant to do. And without it, my life would feel more ordinary, empty, and directionless. Sort of like what Sarah said in her answer.

  3. I love flying and I love writing but I haven’t connected those two activities so far. Maybe I should.

    “Let my stories be both escape and relax for those who need it, and if they want to be concerned about anything while they read, I’d rather it to be the problems of the worlds I’ve created than the most recent breaking news.”

    Nicely said!

    1. I find airports really inspiring places. Stories and thoughts always seem to come, but that might also be the effect of lack of sleep that accompanies traveling. 😉

  4. Wonderfully written 🙂 I’ve only flown once, and I loved the scenery, I got to fly over the alps and see a thunderstorm in a cloud.

    I write because I love the ideas that I have, I want to see the story on paper, I also love to play with language, and the rhythms it creates.
    I’d like to think some day people will enjoy my writing, and find new worlds, but I’m the same in that my writing would serve as escapism rather than to impart wisdom, although if people were to find wisdom in my words, that’d be nice too 🙂

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