“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”-Albert Einstein
Creativity is a slippery thing. Right now, it’s completely eluding me.
I’m sitting in a plush beach chair with one of the world’s most stunning views in front of me, but right now I’m mad at just about everything.
I’m sitting here, trying to be creative. Trying to force a story out of myself and into existence (for the six readers that actually read what I write). I know, or at least I think I know, that I’m not supposed to try to be creative. That’s the trick of it: when you want to create something magical, you are suppose to get out of the way and let it flow naturally. But I don’t have time for that and neither do my six readers. We want it right now.
The frustration keeps building each time I look out across this damn lake. It’s so beautiful that I can’t describe it.
I can’t sum up the way the sun glistens off the top of the water in a way that I’ve never said before. I can’t paint an accurate picture of the 5-foot long lizard that just walked by because I’ve never actually seen colors of that palette before (let alone a lizard this big before). I can’t explain the Jurassic Park vibe the pterodactyl-like birds give this place when they cry out from the sky above.
Maybe I’m just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the amount of changes my life has gone through lately.
If you’ve been reading along, you know all those changes already: I quit my job and sold all my things to travel around the world with a woman I met just a few months – yada, yada, yada. And as if all that wasn’t enough of a shock to my system, I’ve even decided to let my hair grow out and it’s at that itchy in between length and it’s driving me crazy.
The lake looks east across to Mozambique. I’m as isolated as one could be: three hours down a barely paved road followed by thirty miles down a dirt road. The closest grocery store (or rather, hut) that sells food is a forty-minute walk and they only offer eggs, tomatoes, and rice. Outside the lodge is what seems to be a happy village of Malawians – most of them wrapped in colorful sarong-like chitenjes, the kind of thing you picture when you close your eyes and imagine tribal Africa. They live in brick huts with straw roofs and they smile and wave every time I walk by them. They rely on the lake I’m trying to write about for most of their food. They’re here because they were born here, I’m here because I wanted to get away, and now that I’m away, I want to get even further away…
The clouds look so comfortable today. They hang above the islands that dot the lake, looking thick enough to lay on. There isn’t much wind here. The mountains that surround the lake protect them from the worst, so they’re free to just drift in place all day. A couple of kids just swam out to a catamaran named ‘Mama Afrika’ that dropped its anchor about 30 yards offshore. They’re doing flips off the side of it. My history with flips is similar to this moment. Every time I’ve ever tried to do a flip, I land on my back. It doesn’t matter how high or springy the diving board is, or how much of a running start I get before I fling myself off the dock, I always flop. Something happens in midair, my whole body locks up on me, and I’m never able to fully commit to the flip. I’ve always loved the idea of pulling off a perfect full front flip into crystal clear blue water, but something clamps up inside me midair and I lose all my momentum every time.
That’s the problem with trying to live this dream. I again find myself at that awful point: mid-flip. I’m looking at the world upside down and I have to decide if I’m going to fully commit.
If I don’t, this whole TravelTall thing is going to flop. I’m tapping into so many things I’ve never used before, that I’m starting to spread myself thin. I’m trying to come up with genius adjectives, similes, and metaphors for everything I write like I’m the Dr. Seuss of travel writing, and just when I start to wrap my mind around one of those Green Eggs and Ham gems, it seems to evaporate away before it can wrestle it onto the page.
The room I’m staying in is a brick hut with two beds and a bathroom. At dusk I can see the sky turn pink from the window in my room. That kind of helps. It’s the kind of pink that would make anyone that saw it wonder: What the hell are we are all doing here anyway? The sun dips behind the ridgeline of the mountains around 5:45pm, doing some sort of back lighting trick where it makes the sky brighter in this moment than it was at any point of the day. The water gets so still, it’s almost scary – like the calm before the storm but the storm never comes. Then, just before the stars begin their show, the last of the hallowed out trees (aka canoes) turns into a silhouette and glides across this eerie, but beautiful, stillness while holding the last of the fish caught for the day.
I don’t think that what I’m experiencing is writer’s block – it’s more like a life block. I can’t retreat any further into solitude than this (which is usually where the people that are creative say creativity resides).
Perhaps I’ve reached my creative limit: maxing out on my potential with 5 episodes, 4 chapters, and a couple of months worth of pretty good photos. All in all, I guess that would constitute as a pretty good run. When I’m 75, I’ll look back on these days with a deep fondness, probably referring to them as my glory days. I’ll talk about how I traveled the world, did what I wanted, and I’ll have forgotten all the reasons why I stopped by then.
But for now, I’m back to this blank page, this midair moment, wondering if I’ll flip or flop.