The Storied Scrolls #2

To Catch a Lightning Bug

What I’ve published

I’ve spent a lot of my free time the last couple weeks planning our travels through the end of the year. As a result, I haven’t written as much as I’d like to, but our plans to get to Europe in September are nearly final and we have several legs of our journey booked.

I’ve published a Travel Summary page to my website that will serve as the online home for our journey going forward. If you scroll down past our traveler’s profiles, there is a map that displays the route we’ve taken so far. And if you scroll past that, I’ve added our itinerary going through the Fall of 2022. We plan to keep this itinerary up-to-date as we book accommodation and solidify our plans.

Travel Summary

What I’ve been writing

My writing time has been split between two priorities.

My first priority has been finishing a Nomad Life post about our time in California. I’ve written a total of ~10,000 words, but I’m still having a difficult time figuring out what the personal journey I’m trying to share is. The content is there, but it doesn’t work as a cohesive unit yet.

Most travel writing is romanticized and focused on external experiences—what you did, where you were, what you ate. One thing I’ve discovered through the slog of writing this California post is that I want to focus my travel writing on my personal, inner journey. And I want to do it honestly, without rose-colored glasses.

My second priority has been working on a new novella, which I hope to publish by the end of the summer. Here’s the one line description:

It’s the story of a young WWII veteran’s war for inner peace in the Himalayas.

I’ll have more info to share soon!

Where I’ve found inspiration

Most of the time when we hear the word “inspiration,” we think of something happy. I find inspiration in happy moments, but I also find it in all the other emotions and experiences that make us human.

We recently lost a loved one to cancer. This is the first person close to me that I’ve lost since I was a kid, and the experience has been different as an adult. The tragedy of death. The joys of a life well-lived. The bond of carrying on their legacy, even if it’s through small, sporadic acts that feel inconsequential.

What I’ve struggled with the most is how to make sense of death.

Joseph Campbell—author of The Hero’s Journey and a leading expert on mythology throughout the 20th century—said that humans have used mythology/religion to explain what science does not yet understand for thousands of years. As science progresses, temples become museums, and mythology/religion shifts to focus on what is still unknown.

I can’t help but wonder if death will ever make sense. The circle of life is both beautiful and brutal.

What’s challenged me

When you live nomadically, there are periods of fast travel (moving daily/weekly) and periods of slow travel (moving monthly/quarterly).

We’ve recently been on a stint of fast travel, which has been both a struggle and a time of personal growth.

For the last six years, I optimized my productivity with gear—ergonomic chair, standing desk, two giant 5k monitors, perfect lighting, etc.

When we started our nomadic journey in March 2020, I was worried that I’d struggle to work efficiently without my gear, which quickly became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve experienced periods living as a nomad plagued by procrastination and lack of focus, which is unusual for me. I’m known for my ability to focus on a task for long periods of time. I lamented over the loss of my gear and blamed it for the loss of my productivity.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with myself in my head when I had a breakthrough. I realized that my “gear” is just as much a crutch as it is a tool. It’s not essential.

Shakespeare didn’t have a standing desk. Newton didn’t have a German ergonomic chair. Gates didn’t have two giant 5k monitors.

I was getting in my own way.

I used to think that creating space is an external battle with physical setup, but now I understand that it’s an inner battle against procrastination and excuses. Gear eliminates excuses. When I stripped my gear away, the excuses flooded out.

Productivity is an inner battle against excuses, and gear isn’t the only way to triumph.

During periods of fast travel, I spend more time setting up my workspace the first time in a new location, and nowhere is ever perfect. Excuses become easier to make, amplifying procrastination.

The strategy I’ve been using to overcome excuses is to start working as quickly as possible. Procrastination feeds on itself and leads to an inner dialogue of excuses. If I can get my fingers typing, productivity follows.

How I’ve been improving my writing

All artists worry that their work will come off as cliché—I’m no exception.

I read books and watch TV shows all the time that I perceive as cliché, which has made me realize how difficult it is to write a story that feels real, honest, and unique.

I’m currently reading Story by Robert McKee, which has helped me better understand why stories come off as cliché, so that I can hopefully avoid it. As McKee puts it,

The irony of setting versus story is this: The larger the world, the more diluted the knowledge of the writer, therefore the fewer his creative choices and the more clichéd the story. The smaller the world, the more complete the knowledge of the writer, therefore the greater his creative choices.

McKee argues that cliché is a symptom of a poorly defined setting. Setting creates characters, and characters create story. Without sufficient setting, writers assign vague descriptions to their characters, which read as a jumble of half truths copied from other stories.

I’ve applied this to my writing by outlining the setting and character backstories in greater detail, which has worked well so far.

What I’ve been up to

I’ve been in the American South visiting family since mid-May. It’s been a time mostly occupied by mourning the loss of a loved one and booking travel. In the remaining moments between work, I’ve been catching lightning bugs in the Georgia twilight (funny story to come in the future Nomad Life post for this leg of our adventure), perfecting my salad-making skills, and learning how to kill cockroaches.

I’ll be back with a new story in a couple of weeks!

Enjoy the journey,