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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, July 28, 2008

the Muse and I

All right. If this blog is supposed to be about the process of writing this work, then what can I say about where I'm at right now?

I'm going through the process that has evolved, seemingly of itself, in the long course of working on this project. I'm in the midst of trying to work out the chapter that, for now, I'm numbering 32. (My chapter numbers--and the number of chapters--will change in the next draft; this is one of the few things I'm sure of.) The notes document now runs to 32 pages as well.

The first and best metaphor that springs to mind is that of digging. I ask myself questions and try to come up with answers. Whether the questions are really useful or germane--never mind the answers--is not clear. They are just what come to mind in my effort to discover where I'm going.

I have a rough idea of where I'm supposed to go--that's laid out in my outline, the blueprint I developed in the earlier, happier days of 2002-03. But sometimes that outline is vague (such a huge job), and often it's hard to engineer the events that will bring about the steps required in the outline. Then again, sometimes the outline itself needs to be changed: I come up with actual new ideas for how to turn my story. In a way, that's the most exciting part of this first-draft process, even as it creates anxiety that my whole story might shift out of its current form and turn into something else--something that will take yet more years of my life to write.

Ah, anxiety, my old friend. Many fears attend working on a project like this (all right, on this project--there are no others "like" this). The greatest fear is of not finishing it, which might happen for any of a number of reasons, the most pleasant of which would be my own death. Other reasons would be physical or mental incapacity of one kind or another, including the "incapacity" of losing inspiration.

And now it dawns on me that this is the real reason that epic writers of the past have invoked the Muse at the beginning of their works. Not for quality of inspiration, even though that is how they couch their terms: "Help me, O Muse, find adequate words..." But for quantity: "Help me, O Muse, find the creative stamina to reach the end of this work..." I can't speak for other epic writers, but that's what this one needs. And for this I really do pray. And I believe that the Muse so far is helping me. Through the umbilicus that attaches us she sends the inspiration that nourishes me through these long seasons of effort.

For this I thank her. Oh yes indeed. Thank you, O Muse. Please don't let me down. I will keep at it and offer the result, good bad or indifferent, to you. It is yours before it is anyone else's.


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