Unscratchable Itches

26 Sep

When I moved into the apartment in Madrid the only investment I made was in a map of the world for my wall (even bedding had to wait a few weeks and pay cheques). I’d fallen by total chance into the city, apartment and a low-hours teaching job, and was living in a bubble of blissful flanerie, and yet I lost hours in front of that map, my mind far from the convoluted streets of the city. My wanderings through those streets almost inevitably brought me to various bookstores, and within these to the shelves of travel guides. I was tempted by North Africa (still am); I longed to return to Latin America (did, and still do). Travel had become an unscratchable itch.

Sitting in a row of colourless office cubes, working on an article about the global arms trade for a human rights organisation, I found that news was being produced faster than I could write. I was trying to draw connections between the violence in Syria and the international weapons trade, but in the time it took to craft a paragraph about a siege in one city, there had been a massacre in another. Spiralling internal memos about the situation ‘on the ground’ contradicted one other. I drew an arbitrary end to the article, and by the time it went to press the whole arms trade case was dead, and Syria was mired deeper in bloodshed than ever. Human rights, and the insatiable quest for justice, is an unscratchable itch.

After a year teaching in rural Korea, I moved back home to Sydney to spend a few months writing. A manuscript was clamouring for my attention. I wanted to start a new blog. I’d started writing travel articles for a English-language magazine in Korea, and was eager to finish off some more before the next move.

A few years later and I’ve traded one manuscript for another, churned out better and worse blog posts for multiple blogs and better and worse travel articles for multiple travel sites, and I still feel like I have a lot left to write. Like I’m just getting started. Writing is a very, very unscratchable itch.

I’ve spent years scratching away at these various itches. The more I scratch, the more they itch, but I think it’s still eminently worthwhile to do so.

My contributions to this blog will be yet another attempt to scratch a little deeper.

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2 Responses to “Unscratchable Itches”

  1. Devin October 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    The unrelenting flow of news will always outpace us, but we are so lucky to live in the time in which we live where nearly everything is covered or reported by some source…so so so much to write about. Keep scratchin?

  2. johnphilson December 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    That’s it. Never stop scratching.

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