Tuesday, March 08, 2005

When the levee breaks

Writing a book is work. At times, the words dry up, or slow to a trickle. At these times, completing certain chapters consist of literally putting one word after another. These are the times of cold sweats, sleep interrupted at 3am, awakening with a knot in your stomach, realizing that finally, the charade is over and everyone will find out you’re an imposter—a literary wannabe—someone who talks the talk, but can’t put up the capital to claim the merchandise.

The first few chapters came easily, as I was writing mostly about things that I knew about—my hometown and men and teams I had memories of, even somewhat yellowed by 30 years of scrapbook relegation.

I knew I was in trouble when I was nearing the halfway mark and had to pen the chapter about the Twilight League. This is the summer league that I played in, now coach in, and should be familiar with enough to quickly rip off a chapter and get to the work of editing my prose. Instead, a two day writing assignment turned into two weeks, with most of the final work taking place over two days at the end of the second week.

Knowing I had so much trouble with this increased my dread and despair of writing about the northern and downeast sections of the state that I had little firsthand knowledge of. I would be forced to rely on the stories of others, compiled over a hastily-arranged three day road trip in October. I hadn’t listened to the tapes since I conducted these interviews in Lamoine, Cutler, and Mattawamkeag.

Sometimes, one needs to just get out of the way and allow the intuitive nature of the muse take over. Overanalyzing and trying to force history into my own preconceptions might be what’s been a proverbial wet blanket, smothering my creativity and killing the flow of the book’s own story.

This morning, a chapter developed that wasn’t there and couldn’t be found in the outline. What was supposed to be one chapter, in a beautiful act of grace, transformed itself perfectly into two. The beauty is that these now have a flow around geographic location that wasn’t there before.

For the past few weeks, I’ve dreaded writing first thing in the morning, found any excuse not to write in the afternoon, and excused evening sessions at the keyboard with the lame, “I’m too tired”. Today, the dam broke and the block is gone. By 9 in the morning, I had 2,000 words from a player who I thought would be a footnote and a couple of paragraphs at best. By noon, halfway through my interview tape of a former player downeast, I was over 4,000 words. Desperately needing to mail off a couple of queries for magazine articles and get invoices out, plus make a needed trip to the bank got pushed back, because I was still at work on my newfound chapter. The book had become fresh again, not some dreaded houseguest overstaying their welcome.

Coming home in the late afternoon, I had another 1,000 words to get down before I felt able to put this away for today. I’m psyched as this chapter is over 5,000 words and will be close to 8,000 when done.

I learned a valuable lesson today about writing. A book will write itself, if the writer prepares his subject, does his research and learns to trust the process. I didn’t know this—how could I, since I had never written a book before?

This is going to get done and I’m going to have a book that I’m proud of. I'm confident that others will be amazed at the prominent place that town team baseball once occupied in Maine, a time that’s long gone and not ever coming back.

Maybe that’s part of the problem; too much of my focus of late has been nostalgia, thinking somehow I could recreate this time. No one can, certainly not me. Local baseball of the town team variety is gone, just like Mom and Pop stores in rural communities, replaced by the Wal-Mart mindset that excuses our loss of innocence and ability to do for ourselves. Trading independence for some perceived security, that’s neither secure or worthy of the Faustian bargain we’ve struck.

I can’t change the course of time, nor can I change the events of the past. I’m just going to let this thing flow to completion. This is a kind of epiphany for me and I hope this is the push I need to get this done and to a publisher by the end of May. If I can do that, I think I can get it out this summer.

Man, is this beer going down easy and the tunes on the CD player are as sweet as they’ve sounded in some time! I’m not even bummed about the swirling snow and howling winds outside my window.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the dam broke and the words are flowing more freely. I can't wait to read the finished product. Rhonda