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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

getting naked

It's sunny and cold. The sky is clear blue. My office window receives direct sunlight only in three discrete panels on its wide surface, a large one at the bottom and two small rectangles lying near the upper-right corner, illuminated by the beams shining through squares in the latticework of the stairs to the back deck. The sun reveals the double-glazed window to be milky with dust and dribbled with trails of water-drops long gone, plump and translucent like melted wax on the outside of a bottle.

This morning the creative work was hard again: a sense of poking along in notes, following little blind alleys of research. Over all a nagging suspicion that I was occupying myself with unimportant research questions ("was there still debt-slavery in Rome in 47 BC?") in order to avoid the creative vacancy of grappling with story issues. So one's effort is tainted by a feeling of cowardice.

One is a coward, of course. But one doesn't like to think about being a coward, to be presented with evidence of it, especially in real time, while the cowardice is taking place. It's almost enough to put you off.

There's so much I could write about. This is my blog; I can use it as a soapbox for anything I please. Most of its visitors come in search of information on things like how to write historical novels or Iron Age Phoenicia. By and large, I think, they don't find what they're looking for (although some do indeed hit the jackpot).

Last night, as has been happening lately, I read from three books in my stack (Introduction to Books of the Old Testament; History of Greece to 322 BC; Principles of Psychology), then ran out of steam. I sat in my chair gazing across the room. Kimmie was upstairs puttering happily in her sewing-room (her "mad scientist's lab" as we sometimes call it). It was a familiar feeling: my mind wanted to move in some new direction, but I didn't know where.

I thought about events in my life over the past months. I thought about two dreams I'd had the night before--dreams of being naked, which are unusual for me. In one I was in a dining room, a restaurant on what turned out to be an aircraft, possibly a luxury dirigible like the Hindenburg. I was carrying some clothes, but was actually naked. When I was rushed back to my table by Kimmie and some other women, who were excited about celebrating my birthday, I realized I had to brazen it out. They either hadn't noticed, or were pretending not to notice, or, possibly, my nakedness added to their elation and excitement.

"I can get used to this," I thought. "Be bold. It's more other people's problem than it is mine."

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