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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Thursday, June 21, 2007

long train runnin'

The sun has gone, replaced by overcast and a cool wind stirring the greenery out the office window. I hear Kimmie's chimes jingling from the back deck. It reminds me of certain days of late summer and fall, traveling in Europe as a young man.

The writing train left the station again yesterday. I started drafting chapter 29. The train image seems apt: for it is a heavy thing, rolling slowly forward on a planned track, stopping at definite stations for varying lengths of time. At each station preparations have to be made before the train can roll out again to the next station. Sometimes--maybe all the time--the train runs late. But somewhere up ahead, there is an end of the line: the trip will be over.

Chapter 29 is starting to sound like a lot, even to me. Soon (that is, "soon"--a relative term), I will be in the 30s, and definitely in the later part of my journey. Not unlike my own life.

I'm trusting that the result will be worth the effort. I think back to when Warren and I used to get together monthly or so for beers. I remember one night talking about a book project that I was excited about (not this one). I'm still rather excited about it, or the evolving version of it in my head. It's set not in the past, but in the future. But, after talking about it for awhile, I voiced a concern that nagged at me: "But will it have social value?"

I asked Warren whether he understood what I meant, and he said yes he did. "Social value" is the term I reached for to suggest a distinction between created works, similar to the distinction between empty calories and nourishing food. I like things that are engaging, exciting, funny, and entertaining--but I don't really want to spend my life creating works that are merely those things. There must be substance as well: nourishment. Because life is short and time is precious, it's important to do what matters, so that if I have the luxury of a deathbed to lie on, I can reflect calmly that I have put my effort into the right things--or anyway, have tried my best to do so.

So this train-trip is well along. How I'll feel about it at the end, who knows. But I can say this already: it's been a hell of a trip.

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