Charleston   Bike | FoodLovesWriting.com

Tim and I spent this past long weekend in Charleston and Savannah, with my brother, who flew down from Chicago and met us there. We’d booked the tickets back in October, when Southwest ran a deal that turned the total cost of two round-trip flights into a price lower than my dream cardigan (half that, actually), which was a deal hard to pass up. Charleston’s long been Tim’s favorite city (while I’ve never been) and we’d been wanting a chance to travel with Adam, with whom I used to take yearly trips.

Bridge and Beach in Charleston | FoodLovesWriting.com

But mostly, there was the fact that, even months ago, from the perspective of warm and sunny October, we could anticipate the coming January, post-holiday, pre-spring, and the way this month tends to push a person to constant dreams of sun and sand.

Hanging in Charleston | FoodLovesWriting.com

Turns out it wasn’t hot in Charleston, not except on Thursday, a day that greeted us with blinding sunshine and progressed into a balmy 70+ degrees that had me trading my boots for flip-flops and cords for a cotton skirt. When I first stepped outside that morning, surrounded by vibrant blue skies and landscaping filled with pinks and purples, I felt like I’d escaped to summer. Tim and I ran an errand to the UPS station down the street, and I chattered on and on about my freshman year of college in Florida, about the power of light to renew a girl’s spirits. But even when the climate cooled that evening and over the next few days, giving weather in the 50s more akin to spring, Charleston and Savannah surely gave us our hoped-for sunshine fix: We walked beaches, strolled piers, toured miles of historic downtowns and swung on playground sets.

Swinging | FoodLovesWriting.com
Charleston Beach | FoodLovesWriting.com

Sunshine is not all these cities gave us, either. While, back in October, we anticipated the joy of warm weather, we couldn’t have predicted how welcome this little weekend would turn out to be, not just for a break in gray days but also for a source of fresh perspective, creative inspiration and refreshment. There is, as Alain de Botton writes in The Art of Travel, “an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads.” This is probably why people are always suggesting we take a walk or get outside when writer’s block or some other discouragement sets in. “Large thoughts at times [require] large views, new thoughts new places,” de Botton points out. “Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.”

Charleston Streets | FoodLovesWriting.com
Charleston Street | FoodLovesWriting.com
Angel Oak | FoodLovesWriting.com

I’ve been writing nightly in my line-a-day-journal, an idea inspired by Nicole’s e-newsletter, and that includes on vacation. On Friday night, a day in which we’d shopped in downtown Charleston, grabbed pistachio pesto pizza for lunch, driven down to Savannah and eaten French food for dinner, my entry didn’t recount any of those details but instead said something about the enormous amount of talent in the world.

Because we’re laid-back vacationers, in the sense that, our trips include time to read or surf online, just as much as to try new restaurants or see new sites, our few days away brought my eyes across several new blogs and writers worth checking out—and, over the weekend, surrounded by “new places” and “the flow of the landscape,” I had the chance to pay attention:

+ a new-to-me Nashville writer’s blog
+ an article by Anne Lamott on finding time
+ a site so pretty I want to redesign mine all over again

In the middle of the Historic Charleston City Market, I picked up a complementary copy of Palate Magazine and found a fascinating personal account of participating in WWOOF by Nashville’s own Jennifer Justus, who, it turns out, not only writes for The Tennessean but also has

+ an engaging blog of her own.

Savannah | FoodLovesWriting.com

Some days, these kinds of discoveries overwhelm me in the sense of “Everyone else is more talented than I am” or “I’ll never be able to compete!” or “What is the point of making things?” I mean, I don’t know about you guys, but I hate just about everything I write (or create or make) after I’ve had enough time away from it—and, once you start to realize something like this about yourself, it’s hard to want to make another imperfect and flawed blog post or drawing because of it. But, for whatever reason, on vacation, that’s not what I felt.

Adam in Savannah | FoodLovesWriting.com

If it’s true that our perspectives are often shaped by what’s right in front of us, perhaps the key to changing our perspectives is changing what we see.

And for me, over the last few days in Charleston and Savannah, looking at mossy trees and deserted sands and historic architecture has meant more than checking off sights; it’s meant changing my focus. Staring at the awe-inspiring, complicated, often beyond-my-understanding work of landscapes and oceans and marshy grass has pushed my thoughts to even greater levels of talent, the kind that comes from an even greater Creator, and given me a renewed desire to keep growing and keep pushing to reflect Him in the way I pursue my little projects, from pictures to recipes to posts.

Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s a list of places we liked in Charleston and Savannah:

Charleston, SC

Savannah, GA

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    I so enjoyed reading this during my breakfast this morning. Your writing always relaxes me, and pushes me into a reflective state. Savannah and Charleston have long been on my list to explore. Your pictures do it justice & have me itching to plan a trip soon. Thanks!!

  2. Sarah

    I went to Savannah in the end of March 2 years ago. Its so gorgeous. I love those trees in the square. It was so nice to be somewhere with a glimpse of summer.

  3. Megan

    It sounds like you had an amazing trip, your pictures are beautiful! I know exactly what you mean when you say looking at others’ inspiring work can sometimes make you feel inadequate, but agree that it’s more productive to use it as inspiration rather than a measuring tool of your own ability. I remind myself of that daily.
    Also, glad you were able to make it to Five Loaves! I miss that place so much. I’m coming back to this post in April; we are planning a Savannah weekend that month… I have never been!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yes! I am resolving–over and over again–to see talent as inspiration and as a testament to what is possible and of the beauty that is, rather than something to compare myself to. It is so a daily thing.

      And Five Loaves was such a great tip! Thank you again! I had this incredible eggplant wrap and some eggplant fritters on a salad with goat cheese, and every bit of it delighted me.

  4. Little Kitchie

    Charleston is my favorite city ever! So glad you had a good time there… FIG is to. die. for.

    I read that article by Anne Lamott a couple months ago and have come back to it several times. Love, love, love her.

  5. Amy

    This was the perfect read to accompany my breakfast this morning. Writing is what I love to do, what I would (in an ideal world) love to be paid to do full time, but sometimes even setting down the simplest sentence on paper seems to take a gargantuan effort when fear and doubt creep in. The comparison game is so easy to play, and it is so hard to believe that you have anything valuable to offer. When you have a chance to take a step back and see the world as it is in other places, to free your mind from just thinking, thinking, thinking, you have to seize the opportunity and allow your mind to be free for a while and allow yourself to trust in the wonder of the universe that you are expressing in your creative efforts.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Exactly! Sometimes I’ll be just paralyzed instead of doing. I get caught up with how imperfect the results will be and wanting them to reach a certain level… and so I don’t try. And that’s a shame, both because it pretends anything we create is “perfect” and because it supposes working and growing and learning aren’t valuable in themselves.

  6. Megan

    Thank you for the shout-out! You’re not alone: I see everyone else’s published work and feel so behind. For example, I’ve always wanted to blog about cooking, but I see so many gorgeous sites like yours and I get intimidated. Maybe I should just go for it :)

    In the end, Nashville is one pot of talented folks, and we should all work to inspire one another. Thanks for giving me a confidence boost today!

    Megan
    (megan-writes.com)

    P.S. I am going to try your recipe for crockpot chicken curry this weekend. Can’t wait!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Megan! If you want to blog about cooking, you should definitely do it (and if you want someone to cheer you on, you’ve found her!) — was so glad to find your site this weekend. I like reading your thoughts, partly because you’re in Nashville, partly because you’re a writer, mostly because you have a nice way of sharing them. Glad to connect! and ps – mmm chicken curry! hope you enjoy!

  7. sarah kate branine

    Ah. This was such an encouraging, thought provoking post! Thank you, dear friend, for using your creative gifts in this way. I am so thankful. Truly, truly. And, I’m always so happy whenever you post new blogs that you’ve found because I know I will love them too! So glad that you had a wonderful, refreshing time away. Love that you always took a trip with your brother and love more that the three of you go exploring together.

  8. Melissa

    Shanna – I am a relative newcoming to your blog, but am delighted every time I see a new post has gone up. As much as other bloggers and sites are inspiring and challenging for you, this is how many of us see your writing and style. Thank you for creating, even if you aren’t feeling ‘it’ sometimes – you are passing along the inspiration bug as you do :) Your trip looks rejuvenating and warm – thanks for sharing!

  9. Pingback: Writes and Reads 2013 | A Literary Cookbook | Food Loves Writing

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