I've learned so much since moving abroad, sometimes it's hard to quantify. New languages, new ways of shopping, new ways of getting around. But living abroad has also taught me some things about writing. Here's a few.
Take things slow. As a trained copywriter (and as an American), I am used to working fast and furious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in writing long-term projects, like my memoir, I have learned that taking it one step at a time, with plenty of moments for reflection and feedback, can be a great thing.
Breaks are good. A four-day weekend for Easter? A closed office (yes, they do that!) between Christmas and New Years? All of this time off isn’t luxury; it has become necessity. I find that I am more productive and creative after a little R&R. And there wasn’t much R&R in my former American lifestyle.
Clarity. When you live in a new place, you not only learn about another culture, you learn about yourself. I never realized I smiled so much until I noticed others here don’t. I never knew that I kept busy so I felt worthy until I put myself into a culture that knew how to relax. This clarity of self helps my writing—especially in the personal essay and memoir form.
The importance of the right word. While learning German, I have come to realize how subtle language can be. For example, a non-native English speaker once said, “Chantal cannot yet translate this. Her German is yet too young.” The meaning was correct. The word choice was not. It makes me really consider each and every word when writing.
I can do it. I can live in Switzerland. I can speak German. I can take public transport all over Europe and not get lost. I can be a writer abroad. It’s all about learning self-reliance and knowing that the impossible is nothing.
What has living or traveling abroad taught you?