|From Working Vacation Back To Book
||[Jun. 29th, 2012|04:43 pm]
After spending a week in Arizona that included a lot of mental-emotional absorbing and note-taking in a pocket reporter's notebook Laurie gave me, I came home ready to write again with mingled inspiration and terror.
Inspiration from a variety of sources: The land itself, stories and travel shared with family and friends, and an amazing two-hour meeting with Arizona's state historian, Marshall Trimble, who concluded our discussion expressing the hope that I was writing the great Arizona novel that no one has yet. I was itching to get back to the book the whole time I was there and as soon as I touched down on the plane.
But also terror because now I've seen the land again, and absorbed as much as I could in a week roving from north to south, and because I really, really do want to write the great novel about Arizona as Michener and Rutherfurd and other authors have done about places and times they loved. I couldn't wait to get back to work but when I finally did yesterday afternoon, every word was frightening. Suddenly I feel like a child who's always wanted to go into space but can't quite figure out how to build a rocket ship. How could I possibly put even my brief experiences into a book, much less anything more sweeping?
Worse still, what seemed like a perfectly good storyline for the current chapter no longer seems to be enough. That magnificent place with its amazing history needs something better than what seems like a trite trope now.
Fortunately, I've been rescued by that great naturalist Edward Abbey, whose book Desert Solitaire I re-read parts of on the trip. It was actually about the Moab National Park in Utah, but quite a lot of it could be about Arizona, too. What has saved me from my terrors, though, was a simple truth in the introduction that was his own mantra when writing that book: That you can no more catch the whole desert in a book than a fisherman can catch the whole sea in his net. What you can do, though, is evoke the desert for the reader.
I've been telling myself this ever since I got back, particularly while I was writing. It has only lessened the fears and frustrations marginally, but to manageable levels. Much of what I was going to write in the current chapter still seems inadequate, but that's OK--challenges are usually a good thing in the long run, and it never hurts to try striving for something better. (Just as long as the striving doesn't paralyze you, of course.)
In the meantime, I did get some writing done yesterday despite it all.
PROGRESS REPORT FOR 6/28/12
New Words: 1500 on Chapter 6 ("The Presidio, 1776") of Arizona. Itsa-Ichii breaks with her band over her refusal to surrender to the Spanish and live as their dependents in a "peace camp". It helps quite a lot that I got to the (reconstructed) Presidio while I was in Tucson last week.
Total Words: 127500.
Reason For Stopping: I need to decide anew what comes next.
Book Year: 1786.
Mammalian Assistance: None. Apparently I'd been away so long that my going into the Writing Room startled them.
Exercise: Walking down to campus.
Today's Opening Passage(s): “They will fence us like cows,” she protested to her weary people. “They will not let us hunt, they will only let us have what they give us, and we will be ready for slaughter when they decide to kill us.”
The old chief, whose time Itsa-Ichii thought should have been long past since he could no longer help keep his people strong, voiced the loudest support of surrendering. “They are tired of fighting. We are tired of fighting.”
“You are tired of fighting,” the woman warrior accused. Some of the warriors and a few elders murmured their agreement.
“We need food and blankets, and more guns,” the chief insisted. “The Spaniards will give us these things if we stop making war with them.”
“You’re afraid. You fear your legs are too weak to cross the mountains again, and that the thistles will cause you too much pain.”
Darling Du Jour: Nothing springs out at me.
Vacation Reading: Mort by Terry Pratchett; Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey; Centennial by James A. Michener.
Non-Research / Review Books In Progress</em>: Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr / dancinghorse.