If I was to sum up my 11th year of blogging at Stories My Suitcase Could Tell, it would probably be “a juggle,” or maybe “a balancing act.”
Since November 2021, I’ve published just six blog posts, and updated a couple more. It feels like it shouldn’t be so much of a juggle. I work from home, we’re slowly emerging from the worst of the pandemic, and travel is returning – so where are the blog posts?
The truth is that this year, other things have taken precedence: my day job, my journalism work, my friends and family – and our adorable new puppy! With my own writing, there’s no weekly meeting with a manager, no newspaper deadline looming. There’s just me, my notebook, and my laptop. And so writing seems to keep falling further and further down the to-do list, even though I think about it constantly.
Writing has always been like that for me, a constant presence. It’s not even that I consciously think about wanting to write, or ideas to write about; it’s that writing is just there. Writing has always felt as natural – and as necessary – to me as breathing.
But that constant presence is why, despite the lack of published blog posts, the Notes App on my iPhone is littered with snatches of sentences and bits of paragraphs, bullet points of ideas to pitch one day, and reminders to myself of a place or a scene or a moment to come back to on the page.
Because you never know when the time will come for those sentences to see the light of day.
I’ve been reminded of that a few times this year. Those iPhone Notes about North Berwick, freely typed in the sunny days of August 2021, finally made it to the blog in April of this year – and became the piece of writing that saw me shortlisted for Travel Blogger of the Year at the AITO Travel Writer Awards in October.
My scattered ideas from the last few years about a story featuring distilleries in the Outer Hebrides came to fruition in an unexpected way this summer, when I ended up writing a week-long travel guide to Scotland’s gin distilleries for AFAR, one of the USA’s top travel publications. (I included a mention of the Harris Distillery and North Uist Distillery in there, of course!) The digital scribbles from annual visits to Dunfermline, dating from as far back as my first visit in 2017, became “Why Now Is the Time to Visit Scotland’s Ancient Capital,” published by the same magazine a few weeks later.
These are true “pinch me” career moments, but also a reminder that writing takes time.
We’re in a media culture where we expect things immediately, but that’s not always possible. I see that in my day job, where I start working on marketing campaigns for books at least six months in advance of publication – but the author and editors have often been working on the manuscripts for years before that. Maybe my blog posts about Seville and Paris and cold-water swimming in Lewis will finally make it to the blog in year 12, and maybe they won’t. Maybe I need to trust that it will all come together in the end.
And although blogging has changed beyond recognition since November 2011 – it’s all about “content,” Reels, and TikToks these days – I’m still here for the words. Writing is what keeps me here, as well as the community. And by that I mean you, whether you’re reading quietly without getting in touch, a familiar name in my inbox, or regularly liking or commenting on my social media posts.
It’s the one thing I could never have imagined at the kitchen table on the Isle of Lewis 11 years ago: that sense of online community, from Stornoway to the States, New Zealand to New York. You make it all worthwhile, and I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
The last 11 years have led to experiences beyond my wildest imaginings, and as ever, I have absolutely no idea what’s in store for Year 12 on Stories My Suitcase Could Tell. Whatever’s around the corner, I hope you’ll pack a metaphorical suitcase and join me on the journey. After all, I couldn’t have made it this far without you coming along for the ride, too.
Cover photo taken in March 2022 by Fiona at Sradag Creative.