State of the Savage: January 2013

by Keith Savage · 10 comments


The Kilt Rock Falls, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I haven’t traveled in some time. At least not physically. Mentally, well, if words were miles I’d have circled the world three times by now.

I have been far, far away writing into creation this world in my mind. Every day new characters, motivations, connections, and details find their way on to my virtual page. I don’t know where they come from. Is this the mythical “river” so many artists speak of? Ideas like fish swimming hidden in the depths.

It’s a strange feeling, surprising yourself. I’ve spent hours at night, mulling over “fixes” for certain pieces of my plot, certain boring characters, usually to no avail. And then, some mornings, as cats jam their paws under the door to claw away my focus, I throw on my yoke, type toward my goal, and I notice flowers along the path where it had only been barren before. The feeling is almost like a shiver, like the inpouring of something alien.

I have a lot left to write, but I can feel things long unresolved clicking into place. I’m hopeful that I will reach a kind of tipping point and my momentum will skyrocket. I can feel that point approaching.

None of this proves what I’m writing is any good. I certainly don’t know; I’m the creator and I perpetually undervalue all of my creations (or so I’m told by those who perpetually overvalue them). What is good anyway? Self-satisfaction? Happy readers? Money? Fame? Movie deals? Bobble-head dolls? A living? Yeah. Yeah, for starters, a living.

I recently sent out a snippet of my prologue to a group of interested folks who have volunteered to be my accountability squad. I let four people read the entire prologue late last year, and it was the first time Sarah had read any of my proto-novel – five months in! But now more eyes are on the rough draft material. I wonder who will I believe, who has anything to say about what I’ve written? This mind discounts positive feedback from friends and family (though it’s still appreciated!) because they know me, and it discounts critical/negative feedback from those who don’t know me because…well, who are they and what do they know? It’s the writing equivalent of a Chinese fingertrap, and I, stupidly, have trapped myself.

Perhaps I simply haven’t found the faith in my work yet. But I still write. I write because some deep, dark part of me believes, and because I have no other choice. Some can hack jobs they hate for the money, but there is always a hidden cost. For me, that cost is an integral part of me. (What? You didn’t know that. There are probably lots of things you don’t know about me.)

Do you remember those nature shows where the sea turtles hatch on the beach and struggle with their little flippers toward the waves? And then they paddle out into the scary black depths, buffeted by currents and looking like hors d’oeuvres to just about everything? Maybe one in ten get off the beach, maybe one in one hundred survives the waves. Only one in one thousand reproduces.

I think about this when I’m not writing. And when I am, I’m kicking like mad at the sand.


SimonNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:39 AM

“I notice flowers along the path where it had only been barren before.”

Love this feeling. It’s like when I read back and I see themes developing that I never knew were in there and I’m all, “hey, look at that! Something in my brain is smarter than me!”

Faith is important, though. Don’t know if you’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing, but he talks about how you have to protect your ideas through the first draft and be careful of getting too much criticism too early. We are our own worst enemies, but with time and self-belief great things can be accomplished.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Hey Simon,

I read On Writing about a year ago and a lot of what King had to say about the process has dictated my own process. It’s why I didn’t show anything to anybody for so long (he recommends not showing anything until the rough draft is done), but I needed some input to combat the self-doubt. It was a gamble.

Thanks for everything.

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KatieNo Gravatar January 29, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Hey Keith! I admire your unwillingness to settle doing something that you don’t love. Oh and thanks for mentioning the piece I posted about you on my site! It was our pleasure!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Thanks Katie. And thanks for doing the piece on me!

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Gareth LeonardNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 11:36 AM

When you’re finished with the book, I’m flying to Chicago and we’re going to drink so much Whisky that you stumble upon a sequel (i.e. my life story). That is my promise to you. Also, I want to say that I knew you before the bobble-head dolls and movie deals. Best of luck with the writing kid.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Let’s do it. Summer time in Chicago? It would be good to reconnect dude.

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AndiNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Your writing is amazing, never ever second guess yourself!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Thanks Andi :)

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MonetteNo Gravatar January 31, 2013 at 5:20 PM

A friend suggested your site to me, as we had been discussing much of what you describe about writing. I love hearing others share their creative process feelings. You do this in a great way. Thanks for opening up. It’s encouraging in this solitary occupation.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 31, 2013 at 7:44 PM

Hi Monette,

Appreciate the comment. Writing – at least the way I’m doing it – is very isolating and man do I get sick of myself some days. It does help to rally with other like minds.

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