Old Souls: An Intro To C+G
Growing up, I wanted to be a hotelier, a chef, and then a UN spokesperson. I kept these ambitions on the backburner for a lifetime before they got picked to shreds in college, and I chose to pursue my new-and-improved long lost dream of studying literature and creative writing. Where does one go from there? I did not have a grander plan at that moment.
I did, however, already have my food blog up. I wrote when I felt like it, and it quickly began to seem far too personal. After all, it was composed via an unchecked creative process. The writing became obscure, the ramblings of a twenty-something year old on topics he felt in touch with. But this was just a singular perspective, and singular perspectives tend to ignore the multifaceted culture of recreation and nostalgia (among other significant influences) that come hand in hand with food. The aggressive nature of my writing, too, seemed to always tread on the fine line between a rant and a rave, to the point where I did not know how my piece would progress until I made it progress.
As I traveled, my blog began to include handpicked restaurants and dining experiences from beyond my hometown. One from Islamabad, one from Columbus, one from Lahore; each article took on a different tone, a persona I would imagine someone from Pakistan employing while writing about their experiences in a foreign land. Now, when I look back at these pieces, I cringe.
In spite of this, I was traveling, eating, and writing: three of my favorite things to do. I was also becoming more cognizant of how my writing was regressing, and craved a new avenue, a new genre of exploration. Travel writing was one of those avenues that seemed non-exhaustive and gratifying, quaint and old-mannish. Someone once told me that I look like I have an “old soul”. It was completely unrelated to what we had been talking about, but it stuck with me. I am now told that this was a compliment (thanks, Aiman). I don’t know how I feel about that statement but dying on a golden-sanded island with crystal water lapping at my ankles and the sound of the sea drowning out all else was bearable. If that makes me an old soul, perhaps I am.
Old souls have new thoughts too; experimental writing meant ranting in interviews, writing reviews penned in fiction, being tasteless while maintaining credibility – you get the picture: storytelling, not reporting. An entirely new and personal perspective on an age-old undertaking. I, like oodles of writers, did not and do not want to be ordinary. And I have found a bunch of whack jobs who want to be my kind of crazy.
Here, I encourage you to feel each writer for who they are: musing philosophers exploring cities, feminists writing about cooking shows, introverts caught in public engagements, overthinkers making spot decisions. There are no rules here. Each piece is different, and the words bleed unrestricted – sometimes too unrestricted – onto the screen. Each edit makes us wince. This is no menial matter. We are in the business of telling the world’s stories.
In a sense, Charcoal + Gravel was always tucked away somewhere within me. I heard it tapping patiently on the insides of my skull on Sundays, and when conditions were extra sunny. If I had not ventured into this space now, I know someone else would have, like people already have before me. I probably wouldn’t have been too happy. I still may not be happy, but at least I’ll come to that conclusion after I burn all my bridges. And that’s okay with me.
Here’s to winging it till you make it, to trying new things, to rethinking conventional writing, and to transporting each reader and writer to a place where they can have a conversation. I’ve been blabbering on about changing the way we write about food, travel, and activities. It’s about time we did it. Welcome to the world of Charcoal + Gravel.