I just got back from a trip to Coigach and Assynt and I have unfinished business. I didn’t feel this after my 2021 trip to Scotland when I visited Glencoe, Skye, Harris and Lewis. So what’s different?
Well, I came home a few days early—that’s part of it. I was camping in my car, and though Scotland is well set up for vehicle campers when the rain came in earnest, cooking and keeping everything dry became a chore. But there is more to it than that.
Shortly before leaving for Scotland, I read Ernest Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. In that memoir, Hemmingway speaks of his writing method: “I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.” I’ve heard this technique spoken of as ‘the Hemmingway Bridge,’ and for the last six months, I have been writing blog articles with this philosophy in mind.
The Hemmingway Bridge is especially useful when approaching longer pieces of writing. These projects can otherwise become overwhelming. When you return to work after some time off, you are not confronted by a blank page, but rather you have some notes from your previous writing session, directing you where to start. For example, I wrote what you are reading in three stints. This blog is short and so was the Bridge. After the first day’s writing, I left a sentence in bold at the end of the article: “Write a conclusion: what times of year to I want to revisit Coigach? Where do I want to explore that I didn’t the first time?”
As well as a placeholder and a memory jogger, the Hemmingway Bridge serves another function too. I write in the mornings—between a cup of tea and a shower—and after I turn off the computer, I often think of new things to write. The Hemmingway Bridge in bold above is not detailed, but having a simplistic open loop gives my subconscious something to gnaw on. The best insights always come when you’re covered with soap in the shower, but luckily smart phones are water resistant!
So I use the Hemmingway Bridge when writing, but after curtailing my trip, I had a long long drive back to Bristol to think and I started wondering about its wider application. I enjoy Ben Horne’s YouTube channel and photography. Ben seems to be a creature of habit: he is methodical in his approach to photography and he returns to his favoured locations year after year. Ben always seems content to discover a composition but not get a shot—he knows there is always next year. For the first time, I feel that. I have unfinished business with northwest Highlands, but I left without regret—leaving felt like ‘bye for now.’ And I know where to go when I return.
Bruce Percy talks about landscapes teaching you things. This trip is the first time I have felt that—the landscape of Assynt and Coigach really affected me. After hitting the honeypot locations, I had only one day exploring more original compositions on foot before I decided to go home. Bad weather was my excuse. But I was creatively drained—I was saturated with the novelty of the landscape and I needed a break before approaching again properly. It worked. No sooner had I left and I was thinking of things to do next time. I now know when and where I want to explore, and I’ll begin planning my next trip soon. In short, I’m sketching a Hemmingway Bridge that will ease me back into the landscape when I return there.
Some images from this trip—at least those I have looked at so far: