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.
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!