Thursday, November 18, 2004

Pressing On

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward…”
~ Colossians 3:23,24a (NKJV)

Well, I have to admit that I’ve been dreading writing this column updating everyone about the progress of my book. Let me just say that telling someone (or lots of someone’s) that you’re writing a book is like announcing to the world that you’re going on a diet. I can hear the tap, tap, tap of the feet, feet, feet. “Hmmm. She doesn’t look any thinner to me.” “I thought she went to Nevada to write her book. Now she’s back and still no book.”

“I am as a wonder and surprise to many, but You are my strong refuge.”
~ Psalm 70:7

I know, I probably sound like the girl who cried wolf, but in my defense, it’s a complex process and I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m learning as I go. But honestly, I’m still plugging away at it.

Just days before I wrapped things up in Nevada and was preparing to go home, I had a near crisis when my brand new computer crashed and could not be repaired. Thank God, I had just backed up my book onto a CD and mailed it to myself back in Alma.

Computers are great, but I don’t trust them any further than I can throw them. Anyway, I only lost a few pages and at that point, I felt that the rough draft was about 90% complete. Now, I’m not so sure.

“Starting a book is like taking a slow trot through the woods. Then it becomes one of the most arduous journeys of your life." ~ Author Jan Karon

After returning to Alma, I spent several weeks getting settled and the next thing I knew, I was back on the housewife track, getting distracted by all kinds of domestic duties – which only confirmed the fact that I cannot write at home.

"Working towards a goal is like taking a journey. Every side trip you take which runs perpendicular to your destination only delays your arrival." ~ Keen

A few weeks ago I attended the Kansas Author’s Club convention in Topeka (it’s for anyone who enjoys writing – not just published authors), and listened to a talk by children’s author, Jane Kurtz. Jane shared about the time her house was completely flooded and her family had to move into a FEMA trailer while their home was being renovated. She pointed out the fact that she had continued to write while living in temporary housing with several small children at home. Immediately, my brain short-circuited, because I can’t seem to focus on writing even when my house has been completely vacated. No matter. All writers have their quirks and this is mine. I need to leave my house to write!

"Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left…"
~ Proverbs 4:26,27

So my solution during this phase of the project has been to pack my bags once again – but this time I’m only straying 30 miles from home to the house we own in Manhattan. None of our college-aged children are using it right now, so it has proven to be an ideal writing studio. It’s exciting to be making progress towards my goal once again – even though things are still moving slower than I’d like.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been pouring through boxes and boxes of records and three-ring binders containing every scrap of correspondence from our lawsuit. There are more legal twists and turns in this story than I can keep up with. Just when I think I’ve recorded every detail known to man, I make another archaeological find and unearth an additional piece of the puzzle.

But this week was a tough one for me in the writing department. I keep reminding myself of the pearls of wisdom my sister Joanne gave me several months ago. “Keep breathing; keep moving; keep writing – you’re going to make it!”

Here’s an email I sent to a writer friend from California, Mike Stein, describing my predicament:

“…I'm struggling right now. I remember you told me to go to a movie or go for a walk when I get writer's block, but I feel like I have such a long, long way to go, so I want to stay on it until I get it done. I don't want to waste any time. What's making it hard is that it's emotional for me to continue to relive everything we went through. It was just one battle after another - we fended off attack after attack. I don't like stirring up all those painful memories. But I know I have to tell our story and I've come too far to turn back….”

(Here’s some examples of quotes that brought back those memories.)

"We are in the heat of the battle. We celebrate Christmas by clinking our tin cans together. They're full of water, but we make believe it's wine and go right back to the war. Everyone else celebrates with a turkey, a tree and presents. They are worlds apart from us and the way we live." ~ Keen, June, 1990 "This morning when I woke up I thought this would be the day I wasn't going to make it. As much as you want to get up, you can't. It's not like other times; it's just not there. You're walking on thin air." ~ Keen, July, 1995

Tonight Keen was talking about how he treasures our walks and the times we’ve danced on the patio. Then I said, “But you know what’s sad? There would have been so much more of that if there had only been less of this (the lawsuit).”

Keen replied, “But would it have been as sweet? If we’d never climbed the mountains, would we appreciate the plains?”
~ September, 1996, after the lawsuit was settled

Mike’s response to my e-mail: “…Keep at it. That's only course you can take if you want a finished book. Two suggestions: l. Steel yourself to be dispassionate. Get in a frame of mind where you are writing about somebody else. 2. Relive the ordeal by discussing it with Keen or anybody else involved. This also may help you dredge up facts you may have forgotten…Don't suppress anything. YOU'RE A WRITER! Recently, I read a New Yorker article about Thomas Carlyle, the Englishman, who wrote the massive volume, THE HISTORY OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. After finishing the manuscript after years of labor, he gave it to a literary friend for comment. The friend’s housekeeper, mistaking it for a pile of trash, tossed it into the fireplace, where it was destroyed. This was l835 and no copies could have been made. Carlyle was heartbroken and lapsed into a fit of depression, declaring to himself that he could never rewrite the book. But he did, forcing himself to take pen in hand again. He believed in the book and that it must be published. I know you believe in your book. So take a leaf from Carlyle.”
My response:

“And to think I was going to "un-send" my letter to you. Just hit a low point. But I'm glad I didn't. Thanks for the sound advice. You can be sure I'll be reading it over and over. The comment about being dispassionate was interesting. I feel like that's what I've had to do to write this more historical version of our story. You know me – I like the tear-jerking stuff. I always wanted to write "the personal side of an extended legal battle" based on my journals. But I guess I told you it turned out to be too much to put into one book. So this is more of the documentary version based on court documents/transcripts, letters to and from attorneys and newspaper accounts. I really had to take myself out of it in order to maintain my objectivity. I really appreciated the story about Carlyle. If he could start completely over, then I can finish what I've started.” “For a dream comes with much business and painful effort…”
~ Ecclesiastes 5:3a (Amp)

In my office in Carson City, NV