State of the Savage: May 2012

by Keith Savage · 11 comments

The Traveling Savage After Surmounting Craigower Hill in Pitlochry

And just like that, I’m back.

I’ve been home in Wisconsin for just over a week now, and the three weeks before my return – those I spent rambling in Scotland – are a pulsing bunch of glittering images and glowing memories. How fast the past recedes from the present.

I’ve now had the opportunity to go on several, long solo trips as well as trips with Sarah and my dad since the inception of Traveling Savage. Along the way I scribble in a Moleskine, write on a private poetry site, and punch insights into my iPhone.

I also write here, of course.

I’m after those startling thoughts that lay hidden deep beneath the gray matter like veins of precious metal. We all have important things to dig up, stare at, and share. Unfortunately, most of “normal” life is subsumed in a state of numbness, that gray matter continuously agitated by surface distraction: familiar routines, television, the internet, ads, ads, ads. Those precious metals can only be imagined.

Enter travel.

“Normal” life disappears on that first gust of wind in a new country and with it goes that body sleeve of numb malaise. There are no routines to fall back on, no familiar surroundings to guide the prehistoric mind to safety. Instead, there is the freshness of the unknown. The foreign works of stonemasons and linguists, architects and authors, and musicians and engineers penetrate right to my unarmored and shaking core. I’ve found solo travel increases this feeling by orders of magnitude.

The mental experience is a panic of fear, anxiety, awe, and wonder. This is the place where the veins are breached. Creativity lies naked in the panic.

I think creativity is scary to some part of the brain. It takes so much work to find the real creative spark – not the pastiche of ideas seeded in the shallow gray matter by the constant swirl of media – during “normal” life. Some days I simply can’t find it. I just don’t have the attention to hold the world at bay.

Traveling alone through distant, often desolate, lands has cemented in my memory that constellation of feelings so conducive to creativity. I’m thankful for that, especially since I’m working on a book. As painful and alien and tenuous as that memory is, I’ll need to cultivate it to accomplish what I’ve set out to do.

Plans & Happenings

I hope you enjoyed the photos of the day and notes I posted on Facebook during my trip. The trip was a great success and it was good having a lot of quality father-son time with my dad. I’ve got loads of posts to write in the coming months, including spotlights on distilleries, excellent accommodations, ancient history, and some good days out. Expect the same high quality writing about Scotland you’ve come to know on Traveling Savage.

My upcoming trips are all for personal reasons, including a weekend in Montreal for a Radiohead concert, a week in San Francisco for my brother’s wedding, and potentially a weekend in Spokane in September for another wedding.

Yes, I’m working on a book. It will be fiction but with a healthy dose of Scotland. I don’t want to say much more about it, kind of like how you don’t announce a baby until you finish the first trimester (maybe I shouldn’t use pregnancy analogies – I know nothing about the topic).

Parting Blow

Creative types often say they can’t turn on the creativity. Is that just an excuse, or is that code for something true? Where is your creative space? How do you get there?

JoAnnaNo Gravatar June 7, 2012 at 1:09 PM

I’m so excited to read your book, Keith. I’m also working a book, and sharing it chapter by chapter with only three people. It’s so hard to devote everything for it, not knowing if there will be a reward in the end.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 7, 2012 at 2:52 PM

I understand the difficulty, believe me. I’m just trying to do so much backstory that the main storyline simply won’t allow itself to not be written.

Curious about your project. Fiction or nonfiction?

JoAnnaNo Gravatar June 8, 2012 at 2:01 PM

Right now I’m writing full-length fiction. I also have a rhyming picture book is done but my agent couldn’t sell, so I’m seeking out options for independent publishers.

ChipNo Gravatar May 30, 2012 at 9:04 AM


I have been wondering what all your wandering in Scotland was leading up to. Could you be the next Ian Rankin? While not commenting on the pregnancy analogy, you may be careful, because that book may morph or abort as you go along.

Keep up the good work. Enjoy your posts and reviews of single malts and “real” ales!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 30, 2012 at 9:49 AM

Nice extension of the analogy 🙂 What you say is true. It’s why I’ve kept my cards close to the chest for so long. I’ve been working on this idea since the beginning of the year, and I now feel confident that it could actually be “born.”

RitaNo Gravatar May 30, 2012 at 4:36 AM

Excellent post and when your book gets closer to finalization I hope you’ll be willing to share some snippets… and, of course, the release date!

The ‘Parting Blow’ was an interesting thought/ idea. As an artist I can say that personally I can “turn on” the creativity but I can’t necessarily make myself passionate about what I may be working on. For myself this applies to commissioned work, and from time to time the odd project that I start myself and just eventually lose interest in enough that I abandon it.

My creative space is wholly in my head and my heart and since neither one is leaving me any time soon I figure I really don’t have an excuse to not be creative… that and I just can’t help it. 😉

PS- Is that the suspension bridge in Pitlochry?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 30, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Hi Rita. First of all, yes, that is the Pitlochry pedestrian suspension bridge. Good eye. I’m writing the book on spec, which means I don’t have a contract or deal or anything.

Interesting point about turning on creativity versus passion. I’ll have to think on that more.

Thanks for the thoughts!

JennaNo Gravatar May 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Thank you for putting into words what is likely the most rewarding aspect of travel, that space away from our life’s regular distractions. My hope is to find more of that space even when I’m not away so that I’m not constantly waiting for my next trip. My creative space comes and goes, seemingly beyond my control, but I think that traveling alone is a fantastic way to cultivate it.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 29, 2012 at 3:15 PM

It seems to come along for me when I disappear into a hermit’s existence, away from everyone (or isolated at least) and left to endless “me” time.

holiday scotlandNo Gravatar May 29, 2012 at 11:58 AM

So happy that you are writing a book, and i will be there ready to purchase it when its in the shops, Good Luck


Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Glad to hear it Greg. Thanks for the encouragement!

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