Archive for June 15th, 2011

Cast your mind back to the days when you sat with a pile of blank postcards in front of you and a head filled with sea breezes, the whiff of Ambre Solaire and diddly squat in terms of what to write, and you’ll have just the vaguest inkling of what it’s like to be a travel writer.

It’s funny how so many people who don’t write seem to think that writing is the easiest job in the world, and if you throw travelling into the equation you’re just taking the piss if you even use the words work and travel writing in the same sentence.

There can be no doubt that writing comes more easily to some people than to others, in the same way that drawing, or carpentry or accounts are second nature to some and a miracle of human achievement to others. But I wouldn’t expect an artist or a carpenter or an accountant to churn out the same drawing, cabinet or spreadsheet time after time, and neither should a travel writer. Travel writing has to be as fit for purpose as anything else we seek to create and whenever I put fingers to keyboard, I have to think very carefully about who it is I’m writing for.

There is absolutely no point in a travel writer or blogger writing a feature about staying in five star hotels and eating at the best restaurants in the destination if their audience is primarily backpackers and gap year students travelling the globe. Equally, to expound the virtues of trekking to off the beaten track locations and staying with a local family in their one room stilt house is going to be as appealing as a dose of the noro virus to professionals who have limited holidays and unlimited budgets.

If I am going to write about a trip for a tour company that markets itself to low cost, mass tourism destinations, they won’t be too happy if I wax lyrically for 300 words about the wines, the culture and the gastronomy of a region when their market really wants to know about the theme parks, the beaches and the best place to get a proper English breakfast.

But here’s an interesting thought. If I produce a feature for a mass market that uses simple language and short sentences, is it written to a lower standard than one that uses complex imagery and dictionary required adjectives? Surely, if my writing is fit for purpose, then it’s good writing isn’t it? And if I fail to meet the specific needs of my commissioning editor because I like to write a certain way regardless of who the audience is, doesn’t that make me a bad writer  – or just an unsuccessful one?

Whatever else a travel writer or blogger may or may not be, unless they’re at the top of their profession one thing’s for sure, they won’t be getting paid vast sums of money for the articles they write. As a professional travel writer, there’s only one way to make a living and that’s to keep outputs as high as possible by producing work for as many different commissioning editors as you can muster. And that means being able to adapt your style and content to suit each customer you’re writing for.
Isn’t that what a good travel writer is?

Opinions on a postcard please – or you could just use the comments space.

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