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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Sunday, April 03, 2005

awake in the dark

Heavy rain. Awoke around 2:30 with feelings of worry and pessimism about this project. Is this what happens to someone crossing a desert, or kayaking across a sea? You get a third of the way across, then panic. What to do? Apart from dying on the spot, one has the option of turning back. I have the option of dropping this thing and moving on. I've done it with many projects before.

It's not because the project isn't expressing what I want to express (I think it is, although I'm not sure!). Rather, in the dark of the rainy night I worry about the lack of validation--the fact that it will take me, realistically, years yet before I even get to the stage of being rejected (universal writer's experience). To the extent that I'm an artist, this shouldn't matter. This is, after all, what I'm doing instead of selling out.

But I don't have the unflappable certainty of someone who has been distinctly and audibly called by God (or whomever); this is simply my best guess. The gambler in the casino called life finds his chips--his remaining years--dwindling. Should he bet a big stack on this hand? No one can help you with this decision. And of course it's not a once-and-for-all decision: it has to be made again and again. You keep pushing chips out there: good money after bad?

Feeling myself more and more alert in the dark, I got up to pour myself a scotch (neat into a small juice-glass) and brought it back to bed. My pillow propped against the wall behind me, Kimmie sleeping next to me, I sipped it in the near-total dark, appreciating the hot glow of the whisky. But although it cut the anxiety, my mood did not improve. I found myself disgusted and cynical about a local political scandal I'd read about in the paper. I felt revulsion for political leaders generally, and for B.C.'s premiers specifically. When was the last one I could feel respect for? I counted back in my mind and found Mike Harcourt, NDP, 1991-96.

I drifted in and out of a very light sleep, but lay awake for long stretches. Finally rose at 8:30 Daylight Time.

I busied myself reading and keying notes from Plutarch's Roman Lives on Pompey. I need more detail from Pompey's career to properly construct Marcus's life, which was so connected to Pompey's. It's time-consuming, and something I feel I should have done a long time ago. I often have this feeling of being behind, late, and consuming way too much time, like someone wasting fresh water.


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