I’m on my way from Santa Fe to Ashkelon, but I have no idea how long the trip will take. It’s not because I don’t know the geographical distance (about 7,000 miles as the crow flies), but because the path also passes through my brain, and there are lots of byways where I may stop for a while en route.
Some people say that the best part of a trip is the planning. I agree, to the extent that I savor the exhilaration of setting out on an adventure, the initial exploration, and the search for information and reliable sources. It’s almost like falling in love. The hard work of writing will come later.
Many people think that being a travel writer is the best job in the world and that the stories spring fully formed from my brain—like Minerva, goddess of poetry, from the brain of Jupiter.
But travel is one thing and travel writing is another. A travel writer can’t just breeze into a place for two or three days and then, in a trice, write a detailed account of the history, demographics, and sights, especially if the focus is on what might be of interest to a Jewish traveler.
My trip to Santa Fe started long before I actually got there at the end of September. Just to sell the idea I had to do several days’ research to convince my client that the city had enough to interest a Jewish traveler. Once that was settled, I started contacts with the local tourism authorities and research on the history, community, synagogues, and artists.
When I finally got to Santa Fe, a big chunk of my time went into interviewing rabbis and Jewish community leaders and attending religious services, in addition to checking out museums, galleries, cemeteries, and places of natural beauty.
While in Santa Fe I stumbled on stories I knew would not fit in the commissioned article; one of the reasons I started this blog was to find a home for them. Even so, when I finally got home a month later and was able to sit down to do additional research and write, I found I had enough material for half a dozen articles, but room for only 2,500 words.
It was time to write and whittle, whittle and write. It’s no wonder I have pinned to my bulletin board the anonymous aphorism I picked up from my former colleague Matt Nesvisky:
“Writing’s simple. It’s just a matter of sitting at the keyboard and sweating blood.”
Now Santa Fe is working its way through the editorial pipeline and I am free to set out on my next journey, this time to Ashkelon. So get ready. Coming soon to a magazine in your neighborhood: Ashkelon, historic seaport and city of the Philistines.
Text and photo copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.