Monday, June 5, 2023

Writing inspirations

Me walking in the Haute Savoie last year - photo by J Bunn

Every month I write the editorial for an alpine club journal.  Here's a slightly adapted version of June's musings...  It seems relevant to bloggers too.

Why writing inspires us.

This month we look to celebrate and encourage writing about our outdoor adventures. But before we do that, I wonder if you’ve ever considered why mountaineering has such a rich literary tradition; and why if you visit any decent book shop the number of its titles far exceeds those of most other – and more popular – sports?

The often-quoted explanation is that the ascent of mountains has an almost perfect narrative structure. We start with a quest, make preparations, gather friends and overcome difficulties…. Until, in the face of an ever-present jeopardy, we conclude with triumph or tragedy. This is the stuff of exploits and excitement we know from Odysseus to Indiana Jones.

But I’d suggest there is another, less obvious, reason.

And it’s that almost any adventurous journey involves not only an outer narrative but an inner one too. These are the tales of how mountains change us; how we overcome our fears, resolve our worries or come of age… Often, they remind us of the power of landscape; how it can heal, bring joy and help us see the world anew.

And the wonderful thing about these stories is that we can all experience them —and not just on the page.

Those of us who visit the hills regularly will know something of what I’m describing. How many of us will have started out with grand ambitions and returned humbled and yet better for the experience? Or perhaps we exceeded expectations and learned something of our inner strength. The point is that pursuing our passion is as much about the paths we take as the peaks we conquer.

Returning to writing, the revealing of our thoughts and feelings is not for everyone, but it's by doing so that we make the leap from descriptions that are merely competent to those that more deeply connect. And it is this that's the root of our great mountain literary tradition.

What, I wonder, are the stories – outer and inner – that you might choose to share?


  1. Love 'pursuing our passion is as much about the paths we take as the peaks we conquer' - so true in any contect!

  2. Hari OM
    I find with writing, just as with entering the hills, there is always the sense that the true summit is somewhere yet ahead - but that is what keeps us applying ourselves! YAM xx

  3. My writing doesn't need to conquer, it is just about recording how everything happens around me. My late partner would say that he never knew what I was thinking about till he read my blog ;)

  4. Mark -have just seen my spelling mistake - of course I mean 'context'

  5. Writing a blog in the voice of my dog (for close on 15 years now) was in part devised as a strategy for not revealing too much, but I am well aware that anyone who has read the blog over any length of time will have learned at least something of my inner life!
    Cheers, Gail.

  6. That starting out with grand ambitions and returning humbled sounds like a DejaVu for me.

  7. I stopped doing professional travel writing largely because it became so hard to write about travel in the way you describe, while also making a living from it. I don't cry over spilt milk, but I think it was the internet to blame! :)