State of the Savage: November 2012

by Keith Savage · 13 comments

The Pink Arch in The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland

A thing cannot be created from nothing. The mind must be fed, must digest, and through this alchemy something new manifests in the medium: a painting, a composition, a sculpture…a story. So I have been busy adding ingredients, making a brain stew of period films like Centurion and The Eagle, listening to The Sword, reading related historical fantasy like Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun, and checking out armloads of research material from the library.

Anything to keep the flames burning.

Of course, I’m talking about the book. My book. I haven’t found a name for it yet, but perhaps I’m avoiding that in case it dies young. The idea has been gestating for nearly a year – to some, a dangerously long time to suspend in the mind, formless. It IS taking shape, though. I recently passed 52,000 words and hit 160 pages at my 25% completion mark.

I’m not sleeping well. The story plays through my mind like a movie reel, images flickering, regardless of the hour. There are details around the edges that require my attention, that are draining to capture. In my head, the book is already a movie. There is a soundtrack, there are actors and actresses, there is cinematography. My subconscious seems to be sending the story to my conscious mind. It’s a stunning, freaky, otherworldly feeling. This idea is fading into reality like Marty McFly’s family photo in reverse.

This is my first voyage as an aspiring author. The beginning has felt like all beginnings: oblivious, idealistic, ignorant, unflappable. I don’t know how to do what I’ve set out to do – I have no tried and true processes, no comfortable workflows, and little conception of quality in my own work (though there is this). I am the mountain climber who begins the journey in shorts and flip-flops because it’s warm at the start. All I have is this idea that, in its struggle and demand to exist, is changing me.

It is forcing me to molt my mercurial disposition, to cast off my perfectionism of the page, to stop being the writer/editor. The finished product is a product of finishing, and this project will involve many drafts and refinements before it’s done. Above all, writing this book has become a test of endurance. Literary agents with rudimentary math skills would choke at the proposition of my debut novel surpassing 200,000 words and 640 pages. It is the rough draft. I don’t like all of it. Hell, I like probably less than half of it. But I am only unearthing the stone; the carving has yet to begin.

I think beginnings need to be this way, otherwise we’d never leave the comfort and safety of our hobbit holes. If we knew every hellish episode, bout of self-loathing, and void of confidence coming our way, we would never endure, never cross the threshold, never amaze ourselves with our own capabilities. The greatest fear?

As difficult as it is, I’m trying to savor this maiden voyage. I’ve already kicked off the flip-flops and shorts, found some boots and a good pickaxe, and realized, for the first time, that the flipside of idealism needn’t always be defeat; it can also be determination.

Plans & Happenings

What’s happening? Book. Book, book, book. Part of me would like to halt everything else, lock myself in a cabin in northern Wisconsin for the winter like Bon Iver, and devote every waking moment to the novel. I’m just not convinced that doing so would actually result in its earlier completion. My creativity seems to be like a great dam with a small, steady spout of water.

Earlier this month I completed a four-day stint on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that withered my prejudices against American whiskey. Northern Kentucky is really beautiful and every distillery I visited provided a unique, characterful tour. Due to county laws, the tastings left something to be desired, except for Heaven Hill‘s Lynne Grant, who single-handedly redefined Bourbon for me. More on this trip in the coming months – keep your eyes peeled for articles!

I’ve had the itch recently to put together another trip to Scotland, but it’s getting difficult to find the time with the book writing and trips to Spain/Switzerland and Italy next year. These two European trips are vacations, though I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll write about them here.

The other difficulty is that Traveling Savage as a business is not profitable, and I’m coming up against a time in the business’s life where I need to make some critical decisions. I am considering adding a Scotland trip consulting branch to this site where I would offer my knowledge and services in the form of packages for people interesting in putting together a memorable Scottish trip. I get many emails each month asking me to do just this, and I’ve responded to this point with free, detailed information, but it takes a lot of time. A man’s gotta live.

Parting Blow

What do you think about paying for trip consultation services? Would you pay to have someone with deep knowledge of your destination give you detailed recommendations/itineraries? Please share your comments about these questions or this post in general below!

JoAnnaNo Gravatar December 4, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Having a book fester for nearly a year is nothing. I’ve been chewing on a few of my ideas for three years or more. Also, don’t worry about the title. It will title itself when you’re done. Keep on trucking on!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 4, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Title is on the back burner. I imagine it’ll filter out of my subconscious toward the end.

wandering educatorsNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM

i’d totally pay for consulting. in fact, i’d share your services on our scotland site. 🙂

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 11:14 PM

How awesome! I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for the input, too 😉

KristinNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM

Hi there,
I’ve followed your book journey for a while with interest (not a huge scotch fan) and really like this idea:
“the flipside of idealism needn’t always be defeat; it can also be determination.” I think this idea places a more positive and hope-filled approach on risk-taking. I like it!

So some thoughts, take them for what you want, obviously no need to respond, defend, prove, etc. You know yourself much, much better than I do.

Re: Your temptation to lock yourself in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin to write and that you feel creativity is there, but currently flowing at a steady spout. I think this is a great idea to go into seclusion and into nature – and a necessary one. It’s not just Bon Iver, but also Thoreau and Henry Miller to name just two, who went into nature and found the dynamite to bust up that dam.

Also, you mention finishing and editing and length like the novel is a goal and the journey is torture. But then you talk about how you have the story in your head and it’s forming so completely. I read this and it sounds to me like you are confusing the “vomiting” stage of writing with the “editing” stage of writing. Recommend spending the time in nature to get it out, purge all of it with the time and space needed. And it allows you to grow a beard, howl at the moon, climb tall hills with frustration, and swim in the lake with anxious energy. And listen to the cracking of branches and moaning of ice and feel the space that clears in your head and the creativity that rushes in and out your hand.

Then, worry about editing and shaping and length (this may also result in removal of facial hair as you come back to society).


Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Hi Kristin,

First off- thank you the thoughtful comment! I think you’re right about me confusing the stages of this project. I have a horrible habit – in all aspects of life – of thinking far too far ahead and jumbling up work. The fact that I hate having items sitting on a to-do list hurts my ability to prioritize. I’ve also never liked vomiting so perhaps that’s why this stage of the book is somewhat agonizing. I keep trying to vomit artfully when I should just be emptying my stomach, as it were.

You make getting lost in nature sound so attractive (especially the beard part). Anything’s worth a shot, right? Perhaps I’ll schedule out some time at my in-laws’ northwoods cabin this winter.

I really appreciate the comment.

Addison S.No Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 6:52 AM

Good luck with your quest. If your posts are anything to go by then I am convinced that your book will be superb. Take your time and mull it over with a dram of Speyside’s finest.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 8:49 AM

Cheers, Addison.

KenNo Gravatar November 28, 2012 at 6:51 AM

Sounds like giving birth to a book involves joys and pains and struggles similar to having a baby. Just speculating on both, of course, never having done either.

Gareth LeonardNo Gravatar November 27, 2012 at 12:50 PM

If you manage to cut it down to 200-300 words when it’s all said-and-done, I’ll definitely read it! Also, if you ever get into a tough writer’s block, come visit me in Upstate New York this winter and I’ll tell you some stories you can add to your work. Best of luck with everything my friend.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Appreciate the sentiment, Gareth 😉 The elevator story would probably work for you haha. Truly though, thanks for the wishes. Your extensive experience bounding over hills wielding claymores against Picts would come in handy. Pardon me while I book a trip to Queen City.

Tom MooreNo Gravatar November 27, 2012 at 11:55 AM

I would use you as a consultant and gladly pay for it!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 27, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Thanks for the feedback, Tom!

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