On Creating Daily

On Creating Daily

I ghostwrite an average of one thousand words a day.

To combat writer’s block, and fear of the blank page, I started painting more. I want to learn more foundational techniques of painting.

It’s an amazing thing: when you set your heart to do something and make tangible plans, the world opens up in wonderful ways. The path you need to walk is cleared.

I recently discovered that I live right between two professional artists, who both have studios and give private lessons! Here is the solution to my lack of space, when the kitchen is a mess of both cooking, kids school-work, and art. All I have to do is walk over to my art tutors’ studios and create.

Winter sets in; an unfamiliar cold. But it is nothing compared to the beautiful light of December on Lake Como. Sunrises and sunset, brilliant snowy peaks. No better place in the world to paint.

Here are a few works in progress.

This is a daunting sight–the blank canvas. Or the blank page.

But showing up every day, writing, or painting, or creating means letting go of ego, and just letting flow what may come.

It is nearly done, and so are the thousand words for today (on another file).

When we sit down to do our work, the inspiration comes. Creating happens when we decide to make it.

Art by Nyx Martinez

Wishing you the perfect space to create something today!

Colors of Autumn in Italy

Colors of Autumn in Italy

Temperatures have dropped drastically and the cold wind sets in. But the Fall season is still my favorite time of the year. Most of the tourists have gone home; it’s quiet and tranquil on the lake again.

(Click on pictures to enlarge the gallery.)

In November, I do tend to get homesick for the Philippines and sounds of Christmas music. But here, arriving in the post is something to warm my heart: the new book published by my good friend, Ida Calumpang. “Textiles of the Philippines” is her hand-painted illustrations of traditional textile patterns from the islands. Beautiful work by a beautiful artist.

A little gift of home from across the seas. It keeps me connected somehow.

Wishing you a blissful November!

Ostuni, The White City

Ostuni, The White City

Ostuni white city

Photo credit: http://www.masseriatutosa.it

In Puglia, we chanced upon a tiny, but wonderful city called Ostuni. Just eight kilometers from the Adriatic Sea, some call it La Città Bianca, or the White City.

 

What made seeing Ostuni even more of a delight, was that this stopover wasn’t even planned. After seeing Genoa, Pisa, Rome, and all the western coast, we headed to Stromboli.

 

Then, after Sicily, we made our way up the inner arch of Italy’s “boot”, towards the heel and eastern coast. Looking for a place to spend the night, we just happened to choose Ostuni on Google maps. The apartment we found promised a “local experience”, in a traditional stone house, in a city I’d never heard about before.

Photo credit: www.relaxpuglia.com

A 2,500-Year-Old Marvel

 

The road leading from the coast to Ostuni is lined with lush olive groves. Approaching the hilltop city, it gleamed a brilliant white in the sun. If you’re not expecting such a sight, it’s simply stunning.

 

 

Once inside the low-roofed stone house, we realized the “apartment” was tiny and overpriced—but too late to cancel our booking. The bathroom floor sloped downwards, and shower attempts ended up with the bedroom pavement getting soaked. The even tinier kitchen lacked cooking equipment, but we made do. Buying fresh seafood from the local fish market, we cooked dinner in the stone house and declared an early bedtime.

 

Ostuni travel

 

Of course, my kids didn’t mind–it was all a new, fun experience! When the two had settled down for the night, I left them in their capable dad’s watch, and made my way alone to the centro storico, exploring on my own.

 

Midnight Markets and More

 

sketchbook journeys nyx martinez ostuni

 

Soft, soulful jazz music drew me to a wine bar near the main Piazza, where I found the perfect corner to sit, sketch and people-watch. The waiter told me how the city came to be painted all white.

 

“Because of the Plague,” he said. During the Plague of 1657, it was believed that the city was preserved because of the lime mixed with white-wash, with which the homes were painted. “But now it’s just more a tourist thing,” he quipped.

 

Ostuni’s labyrinth of mazes presents the perfect place for journeyers to get lost. They say the city was built with no real plan, as is evident in the way that many paths lead to a dead end, while others continue in spiraled mazes and webs.

 

I loved the chance to explore the city by night, alone, with only a wine glass for company. Being a mom means my days and holidays are hardly “peaceful and quiet”, so the effort to enjoy even just a few hours on my own is happiness.

 

Leaving the wine bar later, I passed by the fish market where we’d been in the late afternoon. Whereas before, it was quiet and empty, now it was buzzing with life.

 

A new truckload of fresh fish—giant lobsters, tuna, and mussels—had been delivered, and the open freezers were overflowing with the catch.

 

People crammed the Pescheria to place their orders, while inside an adjoined restaurant, diners lingered over seafood delicacies. The market was the perfect place to peek into local atmosphere, and having no expectations of the city meant I was in for a pleasant surprise.

 

How could I resist the chance to have a midnight snack? I selected cozze gratinate alla pugliese, the local breaded and baked mussels delicacy.

 

Again alone, I dined, scribbling notes about our journey; both the mishaps and marvels. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like, traveling the world by myself again…for a few moments, I enjoy the solitude…

 

nyx martinez art ostuni

 

But then, just as suddenly, I miss my children and husband and look forward to going home to them.

 

The fantasy of solo travel lasts only a few minutes and is replaced with the wonderful realization: the blessing it is to discover the world together, as a family.

 

Ostuni Puglia travel

 

 

 

Ostuni Travel Puglia

 

 

 

Ostuni Puglia travel

 

(Getting to Ostuni:)

 

We approached Ostuni by driving up from the south near Taranto. But if you’re flying into Italy, you can reach the white city easily from the Brindisi or Bari airports. Brindisi is about 30 minutes drive, or 25 km away, while Bari is an hour with a car, or 100 km.

 

Fun Fact: The city of Matera, just 124 km from Ostuni, was the setting for Mel Gibson’s controversial film, Passion of Christ. Its white walls, similar to those of Ostuni’s resemble the Biblical Jerusalem.

 

The actor/director said: “Certain sections of the city are 2,000 years old, and the architecture, the blocks of stone, the surrounding areas and rocky terrain added a vista and backdrop that we [used] to create the backdrops for our lavish sets of Jerusalem. We relied heavily on the look that was there. In fact, the first time I saw it, I just went crazy, because it was so perfect.” (Source: http://www.iitaly.org)

 

Visiting Pompeii, A City Captured in Time

Visiting Pompeii, A City Captured in Time

Pompeii travel

Gates to the ruins open at 8am. Best time to see and feel the ancient city.

It’s a very eerie feeling, stepping into an actual ghost town.

Everything is as it once stood…rows of identical homes…mazes of stone streets…water fountains which once quenched the children’s thirst. The temples, dedicated sanctuaries…the markets, common meeting-places. The etched graffiti, ancient forms of social networking. The amphitheater where gladiators fought and died.

Pompeii travel

Mount Vesuvius in the background of Pompeii ruins.

And looming above it all, Mount Vesuvius, still active and trembling to this day,

The Pompeii ruins are an entire city, excavated and preserved in the Campania region of Italy. Buried by the volcanic eruption in 79 AD, it lay covered for over 1,600 years. In 1748, the first big excavations began. But of the settlement’s 66 hectares, only 44 have been revealed.

The best time to see and experience the ruins of Pompeii is at 8:30 in the morning. Try to get there when its gates first open. You’ll escape the crowds that tend to gather at midday, the tourists with selfie sticks and tour guides waving flags.

The early light also has a dramatic effect on the giant sculptures, buildings and crumbled stones.

In those early morning hours, you’ll also escape the intense summer heat which pounds the city by 10am. The glory that was once Pompeii may be mostly in ruins, but from the stone ovens and common baths, the temples and gardens, you’ll get a sense of life that once was.

Pompeii frescoes

Of all the frescoes, mosaics and art in Pompeii, this portrait of a child on the walls of one home, impacted me most.

Pompeii was one of the places in Italy I’ve always wanted to see. It was with awe and reverence that I stood, sketched and tried to grasp the reality of this place.

Pompeii streets

You’ll see giant stone slabs everywhere. These were the old pedestrian crossings, to enable Pompeii’s inhabitants to walk without soiling their feet when rainwater muddied the streets.

My children skipped between the giant stones which create passageways and bridges between the streets. They explored the mazes of houses, aware that in the background, stood Vesuvius. That powerful, destructive volcano.

Pompeii travel

Standing on Pompeii’s grounds felt surreal.

Large stones, fitted together, made up Pompeii’s streets .

Pompeii Travel

A part of a home in Pompeii–colorful art, mosaics and frescoes still adorn some walls.

 

 

From Pompeii, we continued along the Bay of Naples. Our next stop was the Archaeological Museum of Naples, following the buried city’s treasures.

Pompeii Travel

Things to know before you go:

  • Wear good walking shoes. Luckily, I’d picked up a super comfy pair of Flexx sandals in Rome the day before. What a good investment!
  • There is one cafeteria onsite, but you can save by bringing bottled water on your walk.
  • Go early. In Summer, the sun is very hot already by 10am.
  • Lucia is a professional tour guide, who gave me some great tips via phone the night before. If you book a tour, expect 2-3 hours tour. The city is huge, and we only got to see a fourth of it.
  • Bring an ID—passport or driver’s license. You will be required to deposit your ID in exchange for an audio guide.
  • Where to Stay: We booked “Apartment Pompei Wellness”, just walking distance from the city ruins. They have a gym, modern amenities, and a terrace. (Viale Giuseppe Mazzini, 108)
Pompeii mosaics

Detail of a floor mosaic in one of Pompeii’s homes.

modern day Pompeii

View of modern-day Pompeii City (outside the ruins) by night. e had a great rooftop terrace view to have dinner and watch the sun settle over the lively city.

…Next stop, Naples!

Seeing Italy: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Seeing Italy: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning tower of Pisa

Up close with the leaning tower of Pisa, one realizes the iconic structure is pretty tiny. Tourists with selfie-sticks, groups of stumbling visitors, and street-sellers add to the busy hum in the Piazza dei Miracoli. We’d paid a one-hour parking ticket just to see it but then ended up getting lost on our way back out the complex.

Traveling through Italy is both familiar and foreign.

Our kids both speak the language fluently but have to follow their inter-racial, tongue-tied parents around. When we really can’t communicate or get lost, we send them to ask questions and directions. It works out pretty nicely.

Folks are usually confused/amused and then relieved and pleasantly surprised when they hear the kids.

The city of Pisa is like many medieval cities this side of Italy. Romanesque churches, clusters of bars and pizzerias lining the streets, peddlers, and tourists. We only stayed for a couple of hours, because the rest of the country’s coast is calling.

 

Experiencing Italy: Our Adventure Begins!

Experiencing Italy: Our Adventure Begins!

The goal is a little ambitious: to see as much of the Italian coast as we can while the kids are on summer school break!

We started out on the west coast, heading from Milan straight to Genoa, then crawling back up north to do the entire stretch from the Italian Riviera. These first pictures are in Genoa. More adventures to come!

Our two kids, who speak fluent Italian, are great to have as translators. We’ve brought a tent and sleeping bags, embarking on the most spontaneous adventure we’ve ever set out to have in our 8 years as a family.

I woke up today in a beautiful Agriturismo in the hills of Savona. I’m anticipating lots of fun, challenge, mishaps, and maybe still married by the end of this summer adventure lol!

Survived days 1 and 2 in Liguria, lots more to go, 😂 kids are having a blast… will try to post updates when there’s WiFi and charged devices.

Come along and experience Italy with us!

Discovering Ferrara!

Discovering Ferrara!

Ferrara travel
Ferrara took me and my sketchbook by surprise.
 
On a whim, I decided to go with Ellie, my four-year-old, on a trip to a city I’d never been before, much less heard of. It was for the fifth edition of the Autori Diari di Viaggio Festival, or Travel Diaries Festival. A three-day event with workshops, exhibitions and art!  
I knew I had to go.  I wanted to sketch and meet other artists.
 
Ellie knew she wanted to go to eat.
 Ferrara Travel
ferrara travel
 
Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site in the beautiful Emilia-Romagna region was like walking straight into a medieval storybook. A fortified castle looms over the city center. It’s complete with a moat, drawbridges, towers and a dungeon.
Ferrara Travel
 
In the town center, mazes of cobblestone paths and arches hide hidden passages. Brick housing and terracotta roofs line the tiny streets. The shopping is good: everything from luxury clothing to artisanal wares and Italian patented shoes. 
Travel with a Kid Makes You Stop and Notice 
Perhaps because of her short level, Ellie paid a lot of attention to the ground. She was constantly asking me how the stones “got this way”, or how these designs below her feet were shaped and built and cut.
 While most visitors to the castle look up and marvel at the colorful frescoes, we spent a lot of time marveling at the tiles and mosaics she kept pointing out below.
Of course, it’s possible to visit Italy and do nothing but eat and drink. And when traveling with a young child, it’s almost better to visit as little museums as possible.
 
You may notice instantly, the coppia Ferarese, fragrant, twisted bread loaves. My first dinner was cappellacci alla zucca, pillows of egg-based ravioli. And thanks to my kid, we found the characteristic restaurant, Osteria I Quattro Angeli. When in Ferrara, come here for the most delicious Tagliatelle al Ragu ever.
 
Ferrara’s mignons were so pretty to draw! Bite-sized bursts of pleasure. Mini cakes and creamy pastries, paired perfectly with a shot of espresso, or glass of prosecco.
Ferrara Food
 
Stumbling on The Oldest Wine Bar in the World
 
In 1982, Olivier Bernier wrote about this ducal city. “And still there are squares and hidden churches. Just forget your map, allow yourself to get lost and you will find them.”
 
And that was how Ellie and I wandered down Via Della Volta Street.
 
Little did we know, we were treading one of the oldest streets in Italy—possibly in Europe! To stop and sketch (and drink), we chose Al Brindisi. We only found out upon our return home that it’s listed in Guinness Book of Records as the oldest wine bar in the world!
 
There is no better teacher than a child to show you how to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. In Ferrara, we’d come without a plan or travel itinerary. And we found fun everywhere.
 
***
Hotel Nazionale Ferrara
 
Active travelers may want to do more than we did. Because we were just commuting, we chose a hotel in the center of everything, very easy to get around on foot.
But you can rent a bike and head for the outer walls of the city, where there are nine kilometers of biking trails. For more art and culture, Palazzo Dei Diamanti has ongoing exhibitions. During summer, the seven Comacchio beaches draw the sunbathers. To see even more of the lush area, join a motorboat cruise along the Po River.
 
Stay: Hotel Nazionale (Corso Porta Reno, 32/Tel: 0532 243596)
 
This boutique hotel in the historical center is a stone’s throw from the Este castle. Stylish rooms, allergy-free furnishings, chromo-therapy showers and a breakfast buffet. Doubles from €103
 
Drink and Dine: Osteria I Quattro Angeli (Piazza Castello, 10) or Al Brindisi (Enoteca Via Guglielmo degli Adelardi, 11)
 
 
Tel: +39 0532 209370
 
Fax: +39 0532 212266
 
 
www.ferraraterraeacqua.it
 
4 Tips For Making A Living Writing

4 Tips For Making A Living Writing

travel writer

Out on Lake Como, not a wrinkle disturbs the glassy blue waters. As I work on my second travel book, the full-length window view is perfect for a moment of reflection.

I’m back in my living room after traveling through Dresden, Prague, and Ferrara. Deadlines are buzzing, which means I have to hustle before the kids get back from school. But that’s a good thing.

Freelance writing—or freelance anything—isn’t easy. Having been on both sides of publishing, as an editor and a writer, here are a few tips if you are on a similar creative journey. Or, if you are also trying to find your niche with an online career.

  1. Modify Your Job Search Strategy

Are you spending all day on Craigslist or Upwork looking for jobs, then wasting time working with a client who may never pay properly?

In the beginning, I spent months doing exactly that.

Many folks looking for copywriters try to get away with the cheapest they can find. Simply not worth your time.

Not that you’ll never get any work on those sites. It may be a good place to start when getting used to “writing on demand”. Some places I did get better clients were Indeed.com and problogger.com

But one day, I decided to change my search strategy.

Instead of searching for “writing jobs online”,  “writer jobs online” or even “work from home writing jobs”, I googled instead for:

“Top Content Marketing Companies In the World”

And up popped this article on Inc.com:

6 Companies That Are Dominating Content Marketing

I applied to all six.

Three rejected me.

But the other three top content marketing brands in the world gave me a shot.

Today, I am swamped with writing jobs—a very happy problem!

And there’s my not-so-secret secret:

Aim for the top. Again, and again.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

–Norman Vincent Peale

remote working

2. Pitch Like Hell

This one is for travel writers looking to sell a story:

Many pitches will be rejected, and sometimes it’s just because your topic may not fit their current editorial schedule. Expect to do lots of pitching in the beginning.

Getting used to rejection is a good thing–and so is stocking your database of editors in each publication!

Don’t give up.

Expect that it will take time for you to send out query letters, write pitches, and communicate with industry pros.

Use that time to hone your skills, expanding your network within your desired field of work.

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3. Nurture Real Relationships

Not all of my work came through faceless job hunting online.

Many times, I’ve been assigned work because of the network built up over the last 20 years I’ve been writing for publications. I now live in quite a remote village, so I value real friendships, keeping in touch with old friends and even ex-colleagues or bosses.

Are you stuck in the cycle of endless job searches and dreary job interviews? Try getting back in touch with other human beings.

Life has a funny way of coming around full circle. You never know who may just be the connection you needed to find.

Or, the one who needed to find you.

“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”—Steve Jobs

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4. Get Outside and Live

The beauty of being a writer is that your whole life becomes a series of stories to tell.

On the other hand, being a writer sometimes means that we are a little too self-centered, confined in our own world.

By choice, usually. A little introverted, you know?

We need to expand our experiences, using all of our senses.

Backpacking by train with my four-year-old daughter last weekend to Ferrara, I didn’t know what to expect. I let life surprise me and ended up in this amazing place, full of history, art, secret alleyways and spectacular castles.

We even chanced upon the oldest wine bar in the world!

Ferrara Travel

The following week, I already had editors in my inbox asking for the story for publication.

As a writer, you use up a lot of energy writing.

It can be taxing; even draining. This is because you are literally emptying your mind and heart onto the page.

You need to re-tank.

So don’t be afraid to get outside and live life!

Do things spontaneously.

Say yes to new opportunities that come your way!

Talk to strangers.

Make friends. Make new friends!

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“It’s cliché!” I hear you saying…

But hear me out. Soon enough, you’ll be making money doing what you love—I promise. Or, making a living writing about things that actually matter to you.

The important thing is that you start living first.

Then, you’ll have even more fantastic experiences to write about.

And yes, the world needs your stories.

Nyx Martinez Travel

Now. Remember the list I linked to at Tip Number 1? Go click it, they’re still hiring. 😉

Travel, An Awakening

Travel, An Awakening

Philippine Beach Nyx Martinez

Travel didn’t always thrill me.

The first memory I have of an airport was that ugly tarp in the old Philippine International Departure Terminal. It was muggy and gray, just like my memory of that particular day.

The year was 1985. I was five years old, and my parents had told me that we were flying to India!

How exciting! It would be my first time out of the country; probably my first time on an airplane.

But what they didn’t tell me, was that they were also breaking up that day.

My mom and dad sat on separate seats in the giant jet plane. I can’t remember which parent I sat with. I was too excited, looking out at the vast sky, soaring through the clouds. I remember chatting with some other kids on the airplane, eager to make new friends.

I had no clue. No warning of what would happen next.

When the plane touched down in crowded Bombay (now called Mumbai), my parents went their separate ways. They had decided that when they parted, I would live with my mother. And so I did, for the next five years.

Funny thing is, that day at the airport is the oldest clear memory I have of life.

It must have been the shock of that single incident: the old airport tarp, the rush of the plane flight…

And then, life as this five-year-old knew it, changing forever.

We spent the next 12 months in India. It was a culture-rich country filled with mythical gods and swarms of people, exotic markets and potholed villages. We moved around a lot, eventually living in Madurai. Memories of India are still crisp in my mind: finding quartz stones in the neighborhood; passing holy cows on the road; loving Masala Dosa; learning Tamil, my first foreign language.

I do remember coming back to Manila, this time with only my mother—the sad old tarp staring back at me from the ground.

Maybe that’s why airports always have a bittersweet feeling for me. Every time I returned to the Philippines, and there was still that ugly tarp, my heart would hurt a little.

I was to board many planes again in life—how many exactly, I’ve lost count. For leisure; for work; for love.

Every time I’d return to Manila, I’d never stop checking to see if they’d finally gotten rid of that ugly old tarp. It’s no secret it’d been called one of the “World’s Worst Airports” many times, and yes, I shared the sentiments.

Then, one day, a couple of decades later, I stood in the Arrivals Terminal, clutching my son’s hand in mine.

And this time, the color of the carpet beneath my shoe soles was a beautiful, beautiful blue.

27jun15-012-philippines-manila-ninoy-aquino-international-airport-naia-terminal-1

Image Credit: Within Striking Distance Blog

I just stood awhile, gazing and smiling.

It’s hard to explain to someone why you’re thrilled when an airport gets an upgrade. I remember sheer happiness washing over me.

That day in 1985 set the stage for everything else I was to learn about travel. And essentially, about life:

That, travel is so much more about just changing places, or going somewhere else.

Travel is a wake-up call. It shines the spotlight on other worlds, the ones outside our own. Travelling can make us feel so small, yet so strong at the same time.

Travel teaches us that sometimes, we get left behind. We fall. We must journey alone. And it’s up to us to get up, catch up, and keep on going.

My life today is wonderful. In part, because of the painful decisions my parents made decades ago, which led to circumstances I had no control over. But that’s okay. Cliche as it may sound, it was meant to be. I remain grateful for life’s unpredictability.

This month, we flew over 6,000 miles, from Europe, back to Asia. Yes, right back to the airport where my journeys began that day in 1985. My dad had suffered a mild stroke in December. I took the kids back to visit the Philippines after four long years.

air travel by Nyx

This time, coming back was a joyful feeling. The blue airport carpet in the Arrivals terminal was warm and welcoming.

We skipped, hugged, took selfies. We created new memories and I re-framed old ones.

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My kids, too, have been learning, throughout our travels, that home is not a single place. It’s not a country; not a concrete house; not even an association of people.

Being home—and coming home—is a state of mind.

And that incredible state of mind still thrills me.

Anitun Tabu by Nyx Martinez

Anitun Tabu by Nyx Martinez


Hire Me On Scripted

New Year, New Wishes!

New Year, New Wishes!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

My SEVEN Wishes for you in 2017 are that you:

1.) Prioritize Pleasure this year!
2.) Take CARE of Yourself. (Because you can only be good to others when you are good to yourself.)
3.) Take Your TIME. Spend it with those who matter to you the most.
4.) DO what makes YOU happy and fulfilled. That joy will have a ripple effect, you’ll see.
5.) ALLOW yourself to enjoy each day, enjoy your loved ones, see life as a rich and beautiful landscape.–Because it is!
6.) Find the PERFECTION, even in imperfection.
7.) Know that everything has a season, reason, and time. This could be yours.

When you allow yourself the luxury of imagining and then pursuing your desires, you are able to create with more passion; moving intentionally in the direction of your dreams.

And I wish that this will be the year you will look back on and know that your dreams really did come true!!

Much Love, and Happy 2017!
–Nikki

Nyx Martinez