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October 3, 2011

Plowing ahead

Photo by h. koppdelaney

Activities I've long enjoyed have taken on the luster of chores.  Writing, working out, gardening, cooking--the small moments I found joy in have become an endless list of things to be done.  The past year has wrung me dry.  But, I'm not giving up.

The novel I'm working on now is set primarily in Nebraska, around the time of the civil war.  It's the first thing I've written that my dad showed any interest in, and when I began working on it this spring, he would talk to me about native prairie plants, the hedgerows settlers planted, the grasses they brought with them.  We had long discussions on local history and the plains.  The last day I saw Dad, I told him about the scene I'd just written--the novel's end, which had come to me though my draft was nowhere near the end.  I felt he should know how things turned out, since the details he gave me built so much of the framework.  Did he like the ending?  He didn't say, and I didn't ask.  We went on to talk about other things--the drought in Texas, Dad's cows, the birdfeeder outside his window.

It's tougher now, working on this novel, when the places and experiences and tone of the story are so closely woven with my memories of Dad.  I've had to change my approach to keep myself going.  I'm handwriting pages--writing and writing without reviewing or critiquing or shaping what comes.  I'm trusting there will be a worthwhile harvest when all the words are on the page.

I'm working like my homesteading ancestors did--head down, trudging forward.  You can't stop breaking sod because you don't feel like plowing.


Benjamin Vogt said...

I think too many people have a romantic, divinely-inspired idea of writing. It's all about nose to the grindstone, on days your stomach hurts, your head pounds, when your head is foggy, when frustration abounds, those are the days that count. Luckily, we don't have to rip up sod like our ancestors, yous and mine both--my next memoir is about those settlers, and the ecology they destroyed (a grassland that is more environmentally benefical than forests).

Traci said...

Agreed. The writing I've had to strive for always seems richer, and even on those rare days when a muse shows up, you have to be present and working to take hold of its gift. There's a certain satisfaction in hard work, mental or physical--satisfaction of effort and completion.

Your memoir sounds interesting. Are you currently writing or have you completed it?

Benjamin Vogt said...

Just begun annotating all my research--research is 95% done. Will have it written by early spring, lord willing!