"You can't read it," I would say. And I would cover up whatever it was that I was writing. Usually, a short story or the beginnings of a novel or an article about a topic that fascinated me. I filled notebook after notebook with unfinished, handwritten work that I wouldn't let anyone see.
I wrote that six months ago to provide some context around why being public with this creative project would take me way outside my comfort zone. After six months, I'm still firmly entrenched in my comfort zone.
Basically, this project has been nothing but fits and starts. Probably more fits than starts. But that's been the theme, so let's examine them quickly and then break out some future plans.
Writing a novel isn't linear. Map out a plan, execute plan, see results. That's exactly what I did when I decided I wanted to try my hand at creative writing. I chose my genre, outlined a story, and got to work on some research.
But that research made me realize I actually wanted to tell a different story than I thought. So I revised the outline and changed the scope of my research.
And I started writing, which was good, until I realized that a primary character didn't make much sense anymore. Until he did again. And then he didn't. That dude has come and gone so many times in this process his head is spinning as much as mine.
This process is messy. I don't like messy. But if part of this whole project was to have the experience of writing a novel, that means experiencing the messy.
Choose your genre carefully, folks. I deliberately chose to write a historical novel because I wanted to get back to my history roots. But sometimes the conflict between the historian and the creative writer can be intense. I'm writing a made-up story. And yet… I want proof that people were where I put them. I want evidence that they felt a certain way or took certain action. I want it to be true. But this is a novel and while it should be informed by the historical record, it is by definition, not true.
In an attempt to reconcile this internal conflict between my history brain and my creative brain, I eliminated pretty much any character who was a person in real life. The pressure to write real people was just too much for this rookie novelist. There definitely are some "real people" showing up in my story, but at this point, I'm being pretty cautious with them.
Video doesn't come naturally. I appreciate the role video plays in public history and I want to use it because of the value it brings. But picking up a camera and recording are not natural acts for me. In my defense, there was a long stretch of time where there wasn't much to record. Locked down during the pandemic, there weren't opportunities for history-related travel or even just day-in-the-life stuff. There was a point when I was able to do more, but it wasn't natural for me to think about bringing my camera along. Also, it does feel a little awkward to film in public. In the end, Omicron put me in my place…back in my home office, field trips on hold.
Success: Being able to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm*
So, it's with (realistically measured) enthusiasm that I'm moving forward with this project. I've made some reasonable progress on the book and I have video and photography content that I've pulled together, but just haven't made public. Yet.
Some topics I hope to hit upon in the next few months, include:
Women enslaving women
The William Paca house in Annapolis, MD
Whaling in colonial America
Some short book reviews
I'm sticking with my original plan of creating both written and video content. Of course, creating content and actually sharing it are two entirely (and, in my world, often diametrically opposed) things, but I will valiantly and enthusiastically move forward.
Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, happy new year to all!
*I'm sure that quote has been used a million times in a million places. I first heard it from Dan McDonogh, who spoke on leadership at the IDEA Personal Training Institute.