The Craft of Writing

Practice. Practice. Practice. Fail. Correct. Correct again. Rewrite. Revise. Practice. Practice. Practice.

“I was learning the craft of poetry, which really was an intensive version of what my mother had taught me all those years ago – the craft of writing as the art of thinking.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

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I’ve always loved writing as a form of communication. I have five journals for five different topics, but they share a common purpose –  they exist for me to get my thoughts onto a page in order to make sense of them. Over the years, I’ve learned to etch my thoughts into semi-eloquent phrases that may yield cohesive thoughts, but more often than not, I write, organize, rewrite, edit, post, notice mistakes (I hate this part), revise, update posts, and the begin again.

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After a discussion with a good friend, I decided to revisit Between the World and Me, authored by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The writing itself is captivating, but more important to me is the fact that the ideas expressed are deeply personal to me because they are reflective of my life experiences. I imagine that one day, I’ll be able to write in a way that effectively articulates my thoughts and emotions, but also reflects back what the world has given me, as well as what others have experienced.

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Writing as a way of thinking is time consuming in many ways, but for me it is time well-spent. Organizing thoughts and emotions related to personal experience relieves stress and aids me in finding clarity. In the developmental or academic context, writing helps me bridge the seemingly invisible gaps between the concepts of human dignity, leadership, human rights, communication, and cultural pluralism to name a few interests. Writing, in personal and developmental circumstances, produces clarity and new understanding.

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So, I challenge you to write your thoughts down. Allow them to flow in an unorganized fashion, draw, revisit, edit, rewrite, and then share them with someone close to you. Ultimately, I think writing as a practice has made me a better thinker, more inquisitive, and more appreciative of writers who can author books, create meaningful poems, or produce art that captivates the hearts and minds of others. Words may not always be enough, but they sure help. Write your heart out!

Amigos de todo el mundo – El abogado de Argentina (Friends Around the World – The Attorney from Argentina)

As you can see in the title both the Spanish and English language are represented. My friend Flor, who is a lawyer in Buenos Aires, and I met in Florence, Italy in 2015. Since then, she’s traveled many amazing places and balances work, life, and traveling. You’ll find that the following blog will be in both Spanish and English as a representation of our friendship. Enjoy!

Como se puede ver en el título tanto el español como el inglés están representados. Mi amiga Flor, que es abogada en Buenos Aires, y me reuní en Florencia, Italia en 2015. Desde entonces, ella ha viajado por muchos lugares increíbles y equilibra el trabajo, la vida y los viajes. Usted encontrará que el siguiente blog será escrito en español e inglés como una representación de nuestra amistad. Disfruta!

Esta es la histora de Flor. This is Flor’s Story!

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¿De donde eres? ¿Qué ciudad y país?

 Me llamo Flor  y soy de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 ¿Viaja con frecuencia?

 Me gradué de la universidad en diciembre del 2014. Hasta el momento que estuve muy enfocada en mis estudios y no tenía forma de solvente grandes viajes.Una vez ya graduado decidí ir a Europa un mes y medio a modo de “festejo”. Ese viaje resultó el Puntapié inicial para descubrir que viajar es una experiencia única que te conecta con un sin fin de emociones.En la actualidad trato de organización de viajes (cortos-largos) con la mayor frecuencia posible.

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Portobello Road Market – London, England

Que país ha sido favorito? ¿Qué te ha gustado?

 No puedo elegir uno solo. Mis dos favoritos son Inglaterra y Costa Rica.

Londres fue la primera ciudad europea que conocí y quedó fascinada con toda su estructura y perfección. Lo mejor de todo: Los parques.Mi preferido Holland Park y una hora del centro Houmpton Court.

 En Costa Rica existe una energía especial. Más allá de la belleza de sus playas creo que lo mejor es su gente. Utilizar la frase “PURA VIDA” como saludo. Son dos palabras que simbolizan su forma de vivir: alegría, armonía y paz.

Mi playa favorita: Santa Teresa. Sus atardeceres son de película.

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Santa Theresa – Costa Rica

 ¿Tiene algún otro viaje planeado para el próximo año?

 Si, México en abril del 2017.

¿Qué es lo que más te gusta de viajar?

 En una palabra: La libertad.

Si pudieras decirle a la gente algo que inspirar a viajar, ¿qué dirías?

¡La vida es una sola, you live one !!!

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Cliffs of Moher, Irlanda

English Translation:

Where are you from? What city and country?

 My name is Flor and I am from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 Do you travel frequently?

 I graduated from university in December of 2014. Until then I was very focused on my studies and had no way of planning great trips. Once I graduated I decided to go to Europe for a month and a half as a “celebration”. That trip was the starting point to discover that traveling is a unique experience that connects you with an endless number of emotions. Currently, I try to organize trips (short and long) as often as possible.

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Portobello Road Market – London, England

What country has been your favorite? What did you like?

I cannot choose one. My two favorites are England and Costa Rica.

London was the first European city I visited and I was fascinated with all its structure and perfection. Best of all: The Parks. My favorite was Holland Park and 1 hour from downtown Hampton Court.

In Costa Rica, there is a special energy. Beyond the beauty of its beaches, I think the best is its people. They use the phrase “PURA VIDA” as a greeting. These are two words that symbolize their way of living: joy, harmony and peace. My favorite beach: Santa Teresa. Their sunsets are like the movies.

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Santa Theresa – Costa Rica

Do you have any other trips planned for next year?

Yes, Mexico in April 2017.

What do you like most about traveling?

In a word: Freedom.

If you could tell people something to inspire them to travel, what would you say?

You live once!!!!

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Cliffs of Moher – Ireland

Travel Series Part 3 – Nostalgic. Grateful. And Ready to Go Again

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Imagine coming home after four months of exploration, being fully present, and navigating life in places so unfamiliar that all you could do was stumble around for a while until you found your way? Midge Carter found herself buying tickets for trains with no destination in mind. She hiked mountains, walked out to island after the tide rolled out, and sat at King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh at sunrise with 16 amazing friends. (Photos at the end).

Today’s blog is about Midge’s four-month journey around Europe. From hot chocolate in Ibiza to longing for Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter by the end of her trip, Midge shared with me interesting stories about not wanting to leave, but finally coming to a place where she is grateful for her experiences, but so deeply ready to leave again. (She’s not particular about much, but she is about peanut butter. – “Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter or NOTHING”). In France, she found herself wandering around markets before heading out for a solo-hike. “I don’t speak French so I just walked around pointing at things and ended up with a few oranges and a baguette. I hiked up this mountain by myself and I sat on the side of it looking out at the alps… just sitting there like this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.”When you’re traveling for months at a time, you experience these peaceful, still moments where it’s just you and the world.

You also find that much of your success is related to the kindness of others. Traveling is deeply revealing – it shows us deepest selves, our strength, our ability to be alone and be happy, and our need to connect wherever we go. “There was one day when two of us met up with two friends for a hike and when we got to the top it was so windy and no one else was around. It was JUST us. It was just the most… it was one of those moments that feels so tangible because it’s so solid when you’re in it and you want to remember it.” These moments aren’t easily forgotten. We hold tightly to the moments where we felt most alive. We remember who was with us, what the air felt like, and how important the people around us were in those moments.

As the trip came to a close the emotions changed. The desire to get off the plane and escape back to a new place grows and grows. “The hardest part was that I didn’t want to be home. Especially because I spent the rest of the summer in the same town I grew up in. It’s like going from doing something interesting every day and all of sudden you’re back in the grind. It’s not like every day there (Europe) was perfect, but it wasn’t every day here.” While listening to Midge share stories of travel and her journey home, I couldn’t help but go back to the moment of landing back in the States after my first trip abroad. That feeling of I could be anywhere in the world right now, why did I come back here sets in. You think of just buying the first ticket out to wherever and going away again. It doesn’t last forever, but it does feel like it will never go away.

After a while, you come to a point where you’ve settled back in. You find that the grind isn’t so bad and you look back on all the memories made with amazing people. “I think I stopped being angry when I felt like I was doing something with my life again… And I’m at a point where I’m nostalgic, and grateful, and ready to go again,” The desire to travel never really goes away after that first trip. It intensifies and staying in familiar places too long starts to feel suffocating, but that’s when you look through old photos, plan your next trip and get on your way.

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All photos were provided by Midge Carter. Midge is studying public relations, a lover of Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter, and a fellow Travel enthusiast.

Travel Series Part 2 – A Love Affair with England

The second post in the series is a little different. For the first time, The Big Picture has a Guest Author. Amanda Yats is studying public relations and is a fellow travel enthusiast. This summer she spent a few short weeks exploring England with a few friends. Follow Amanda on Twitter at @amanda_yats and on Instagram at @amandalynn_28. Enjoy!

If you are interested in being a Guest Author for The Big Picture send me a Direct Message (DM) on Instagram: @vince_thurman1 or via email at thurm1vg@gmail.com.

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Going Abroad- A Love Affair with England

Picture in your head the opening scene from Love Actually – set in London Heathrow airport. Family and friends warmly and lovingly greet one another as they reunite. Hugs and smiles are available in abundance, and Hugh Grant’s voice over is telling you that love actually is all around.

When I stepped out of the baggage claim area into the arrivals gates of London Heathrow, I wasn’t looking for a specific person or embrace, but I felt an immense love for a country and culture I was about to experience for the first time.

Even though my visit in England lasted for a short three weeks, I had fallen in love.

My first few days we rather rough; I had a sinus infection, which didn’t mix well with a six-hour flight. Regardless of my sore throat and congested sinuses, I couldn’t help by marvel at the rolling green hills spotted with sheep, endless Lion candy bars and the Walkers Quavers that we encountered as we drove south away from the bustle of London.

One of my first meals across the Pond was a traditional, full English breakfast. I remember thinking that I would never be satisfied with breakfast back in the States after experiencing such a filling meal.

Along with the delicious food, I admired the differences and similarities of the English culture compared to that of the United States. There were so many seemingly small moments that made me fall in love with life and the world over again during the trip.

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Here are just a handful:

  • Standing on the beach in Perranporth watching the sun set and kicking around a soccer ball with my professor and classmates
  • Looking over the breathtaking landscape of the English coast while standing where the alleged castle of King Arthur once belonged
  • Having my heart pound in my chest as I jumped onto my first tube in London’s Underground
  • Visiting the spot where the Mayflower departed in Plymouth and eating my first traditional fish and chips meal
  • Getting kicked off the famous lion statue in Trafalgar Square after trying to take far too many photos of the same double decker bus

These moments where just a few snapshot memories that initially come to mind when reflecting back on my trip abroad. I could (and often have) gone on and on to my friends and family about how my time spent experiencing other countries and cultures has positively influenced me.

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On one of our last nights in England, our professor told us something that I continue to find strikingly true, as well as applicable once someone goes abroad.

He said that once you go abroad, or begin to travel anywhere really, you can never truly come home again. While the place you once called home has stayed mostly the same during your time away, you’ve changed. So therefore the person you were when you left doesn’t come home; the person you are now will come back, but you will never be the same after your experiences.

I think the following quote from the late F. Scott Fitzgerald sums up the idea fairly accurately:

“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”

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Travel Series Part 1: Preparing to Go Alone – Harrison Watts

Travel Series Part 1 – Preparing to Go Alone – The First Solo Trip

Last week, I had the opportunity to correspond with Harrison Watts, a student at Central Michigan University, who is preparing for a four-month Study Abroad trip to Italy. He’ll be studying at the Florence University of the Arts, in Firenze (Florence), Italy. Solo Travel can spark many emotions ranging from anxiety to great and endless excitement. As your departure date gets closer, you’ll find that the butterflies in your stomach flap their wings a little harder and the exciting to go steadily increases.

Below you’ll find a few responses to an interview between myself and Harrison as he’s been preparing for his extended stay in Italy.

Vincent: Is this your first time traveling abroad alone? If so what are some of the emotions you’ve been feeling?

Harrison: Yes, I am very anxious to leave and experience this trip, but most of all ecstatic. I have never been abroad, so I have no doubt that this will be the trip of a lifetime.” 

Vincent: Why do you think you’re having those feelings?

Harrison: I have never experienced being far away from home for an extended period of time with weak communication and not knowing anyone. I am not a home-body, and I love traveling new places, so I cannot wait for this.

 Vincent: What tips have people given you?

Harrison: People have told me many place to go; Cinque Terre, Venice, Munich (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Rome, amongst other places. They have given me insights on restaurants, hostels, airlines, food, and other excursions to do. Another tip I received is what to expect from the local community. They told me it was surprising how many people knew English and that they language barrier was only tough occasionally. This definitely relived a lot of worry.

Vincent: Is there a specific aspect of your trip that you are most excited for? 

Harrison: I am very excited for a few classes that I will be taking, as well as new experiences and friendships. I am taking a wine tasting class and I’m already planning weekend trips!

Vincent: If you had ONE piece of advice to give to someone who isn’t sure about going abroad what would it be?

Harrison: LOOK INTO IT.

Author’s Note: Solo Travel is exciting and enlivening! It is an opportunity for discovery, learning, and growth. If you’re afraid of solo travel, find a friend and take them along for the ride, but I’d say one solo trip changes everything!

To follow Harrison’s Journey, feel free to follow him on Instagram @har_watts.

For more Travel and Big Picture updates follow me on Instagram @vince_thurman1

The Big Picture – Update

Between now and the end of 2016, I’ll be sharing a collection of posts in series format. As I become more selective of blog content, I’ll be looking for stories, guest writers, and people to feature. If you’re interested feel free to DM me via Instagram, @vince_thurman1 or Comment on this post.

Over the next three days, I’ll be highlighting three areas of travel ranging from planning your trip to having to come home after a few months of being away.

This week’s series will highlight three friends interested in travel. First, I’ll be highlighting Harrison Watts, who is preparing to leave on a four-month study abroad trip to Florence, Italy, which also happens to be his first Solo-Trip. Next will be Amanda Yats, this week’s guest writer who will share about her Love Affair with England. Finally, Midge Carter will reflect on spending a summer abroad.

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Office Spotlight – Ellen Wehrman

Today’s Office Spotlight is for the cool aunt that everyone wants to talk to at holidays. The one who looks out for your best interests, but also gives you candy before dinner. Ellen Wehrman joined the Leadership Institute team a little over a year ago and she’s been on a roll since the start.

Ellen is passionate about her husband and kids, sharing desserts, and assessment. I’ve never seen anyone more excited about finding new and INTERESTING ways to gather data and figure out what to do with it. Ellen has also served as a guiding voice for me as a young professional. As one who is passionate about assessment, you can imagine she is passionate about feedback as well. As a young professional with a lot of passion, you can imagine how enthusiastic I am to share my thoughts and ideas. Basically, I need a lot of feedback to flush out my ideas fully.

Ellen has given me tips and coaching on how to balance listening and sharing ideas. She coached me to see that there is power in letting people get their ideas out fully before finishing someone’s sentence or chiming in every few minutes. (I promise it’s the passionate in me). Much like her coaching, Ellen follows this to a T and is a phenomenal listener and coach. It’s been great to have you in the office Ellen and have you as a mentor and coach. We also appreciate the treats, desserts, and candy before lunch!

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Ellen is an Assistant Director in CMU’s Leadership Institute.