Writing and maps: some ideas

As one of my 'special writing days' I visited the maps exhibition at the British Library: Maps and the 20th century: drawing the line. I really enjoyed it, but before I say why, just take note that the exhibition finishes soon: 1st March. So if you like maps, and you're in London or can get to London, hurry up and go.

I enjoyed the variety of maps and the sheer ingenuity about some of them. For example, there were '3d' maps used during war time in order to give the generals a better idea of what the terrain was actually like. Another example: 'The map that came to life'. This was a book published in 1948, designed to teach children what the symbols on maps mean. The book achieved this by showing the map and the 'real life' area at the same time.

But as a writer, the main reason I liked the exhibition was that I found it sparked off a few ideas for me. I intend to work on these over the next year or so.

In the meantime, I've drawn a map of the day I spent going to the maps exhibition. Here it is, with an explanation below:

A map showing my travels when I went to the Maps exhibition at the British Library.

A map showing my travels when I went to the Maps exhibition at the British Library.

The map I've drawn contains several layers of information:

First, it shows my journeys, more or less accurately. I travelled from my home to the British Library via Liverpool Street. From there, I went to Gloucester Road to attend a committee meeting of the Society of Authors' Educational Writers Group. After that I went home.

Secondly, I've included my travel time for each leg of the journey. Coming back was an absolute nightmare, as half the London Underground network was paralysed due to signal failures. In fact, at one point I was debating whether to find a hotel for the night or spend several hours going home by bus. Fortunately, I worked out a route on the underground that had remained unaffected by the chaos.

Thirdly, I have included how I spent the better part of my journeys. On the way to the exhibition I wrote two thirds of a book review on a Kindle Fire. (My review was published here, if you're interested). On the way home I continued with a novel I'm reading.

Fourthly, I've listed the tube lines that were messed up, and indicated that by putting a line through each of them.

I like the idea of using maps as a form of writing. It seems to me that you can put quite a bit of information on them in the form of what I call 'layers', without taking up lots of additional space. (And I'm not referring to geographical maps that one finds in books such Lord of the Rings.)

I don't suppose any professional cartographer will feel that his or her job is threatened by my 'maps exhibition map', but I don't think I've done too bad a job at conveying quite a lot of information. And all the more so when you consider that the paper I drew it on is only A6 in size!