Originally published November 1, 2015
This past week I have devoted time to prepare for the 30-day challenge known in writing circles as NanoWrimo. Or, National Novel Writing Month. As it happens there is also a site for nonfiction writers. I signed up for both, mostly because nonfiction inspires me, but the fiction site has better progress tracking devices. And easier communication between participants. In any case, I am going to make a concerted effort to develop the rough draft for the balance of my manuscript, Redefining Job and the Conundrum of Suffering.
Which brings me to the thoughts which have followed me about during this time of preparation. The first has to do with how we master, or remaster a skill or character attribute, or how we manage the time allotted for all our pursuits. For this I have my wood stove to thank. Many years ago I lived in Montana and wood stoves were an everyday part of life. In the morning you check the coals, stuffed the box and urged it to full flame, closed the door and forgot about it until early afternoon. Then you stuffed more wood in, closed the door and ignored it until bedtime. At that point you damped things down, and, well, in the morning you likely had nice hot coals to start all over. Easy. Well, maybe not.
My new home has a wood stove. It’s a monster of a thing that at full throttle can run me out of the house. But it, in combination with the softwoods of the Pacific Northwest, can be temperamental. It is not unusual to check the box in the morning to find a cold, half burned log resting in the grate. I have learned, after a bit of instruction from a neighbor, how to nurture my fire during the day so that it neither gets over excited with roaring flames seeking the free air above the roof line, nor dies a sudden death leaving me with cold, charred, logs.
Writing and research are a bit like that. If you want to contribute something of value in the world of nonfiction (or fiction), you need to nurture the flame. It is of no help to run off on a tangent exhausting yourself and ending up with pages of barely intelligible musings with no basis in facts or logic or anything slightly related to acceptable story structure. Nor can you afford to be so remote that passion for the subject dies a cold, charred death rotting away somewhere on your hard drive. Nanowrimo is the starter log for many writers, the initial flame that helps build the fire to a level that can be maintained by adding fuel and substance in a regular and productive manner.
That brings us to thought two, inspiration. Webster defines it as “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create: a force or influence that inspires someone.” Yeah, that.
Some years ago when I was going through a particularly difficult time, my husband-to-be suggested that I look for a book to read. Not just any book, but something that was connected to the things I like to learn. I chose a book about Hatshepsut. Within a few days I was back on the phone chattering away about some correlations I had found between the information provided and something else I had tucked away from some other reference. In the middle of a conversation he started to laugh. Then he explained. Whatever had been depressing me was long gone. As soon as I was back in my own world the pull of research, the love of the hunt for knowledge, well, consumed me.
This past week that feeling has been growing again. As I begin to collect the references and support that I need to build my manuscript, the more I felt drawn into that special space where ideas begin to link, to spark, to grow into a fire. I do have a rather extensive library in my own home on many of the subjects that are dear to me, but some of the material does not include the latest findings or developments, and well, it certainly isn’t a university library. That requires time on the web seeking sources that carry weight or lead to something that does. Rather than grow weary of sorting through the fluff, I find myself having a wonderful time tracking down men and women who have thought similar thoughts, who have been closer to source material, and who have developed worldviews close to, or diametrically opposed, to mine.
This is the thrill of creation. Taking the materials at hand and molding something unique that can be shared. I have received supportive commentary based on the first half or so of the manuscript. That is encouraging. Many folks that are familiar with my general thoughts on subjects related to Job do want to see me develop these into something cohesive. I do, of course, hope that others (even those that don’t know me personally) will find this work of value. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the journey from scribbled notes, to polished manuscript.
Keep the flame burning.