All writers have a project that just...nags away at them demanding to be finished, when it cannot be.
I happen to have two.
The first, is the proposed book on the blending of divorced families. A title has been picked out, but like all good stories, it needs a beginning, a "muddle" and an end. The end should bring about a resolution to the muddle. Mine does not, so the muddle continues.
The second project is spin off from the original idea. Much like the Star Wars prequels, the second project is the "before" story. Hopefully my "before" story won't be as loathed as the Star Wars prequels. It too has a beginning and a "muddle", and unlike the first project - has a known end point - but it's not there yet.
On July 14, 2015, one of the most anticipated fiction novels was released both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Go Set A Watchman, the second book by author Harper Lee made it's debut almost fifty five years to the day after the first release of To Kill A Mockingbird.
The storyline of Watchman centers on Jean Louise Finch, "Scout"
returning home to Maycomb County to discover, everything has changed
since she and her brother Jem were the object of attention from neighbor
Arthur 'Boo' Radley.
In the weeks leading up to the release, reviews
began to emerge that the father of Jean Louise, Attica Finch, had
become a racist. In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus defends a man falsely
accused of rape, and later during the film of the same name, Gregory Peck delivers one of the revered performances ever, which won him an Academy Award.
Writers and the blogosphere cried out in dismay at the fall from grace.
"Say it isn't so?"
"Falls from grace - first Cliff Huxtable, now Atticus Finch."
a simultaneous release in both the United Kingdom and the United
States, fellow writers "across the pond" got their hands on the book and
were putting their thoughts into newspapers, before I even woke up.
After reading their reviews, I wondered if it was worth preordering and
prepaying for my copy on the first day release.
On the third day,
and after avoiding the "mass hysteria" about Mister Finch's tainted
view, I picked up my copy and isolated myself for the read. Cover to
cover, one sitting. As I read the book, I could not help but be drawn
back to the circumstances that brought Lee's first book to me.
up in Australia, there was not a lot of detail paid to the civil issues
of the South. The book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is required reading in
junior High School English, along with Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare,
and Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.
My first viewing of the film was in 1982 - not a lot of television in
Australia. However, as my daughters grew up, they too also experienced
Mockingbird as required reading in both Australia and the USA. Like
myself, they also were not exposed to the civil issues of the south
before the book, but had more exposure to Hollywood's interpretation of
Go Set A Watchman draws on the premise that every
person has a Watchman, a conscience. Jean Louise, on a humid Sunday
afternoon finds herself sitting in the same balcony of the courthouse
where she watched her father so many years ago. This time, Atticus is
leading a Citizen's Council. Jean Louise is horrified and then goes on
tirade against almost everyone. Almost.
The book has flashback
scenes interspersed explaining where her childhood friends ended up.
Dill lives in Italy and her older brother, Jem, passed away with a heart
attack. About the only person in Maycomb that hasn't changed is
Calpurnia, who is still the housekeeper for Mister Finch.
Go Set A
Watchman reads like a "first draft", including a reference to Atticus
defending Tom Robinson, and having him acquitted of rape twenty years
earlier - the storyline that would eventually became Mockingbird.
Watchman does not have the same hold as Mockingbird, and it's hard to
imagine that Lee would "allow" this to be released, after a lifetime of
rejecting pleas for a sequel. Lee, aged 89 and still living in Alabama,
had her manuscript of Watchman "found" during an audit of assets by her
commotion about Atticus appears to be, unjustified. After getting into a
heated discussion with Jean Louise, Mister Finch delivers the same
lines from Mockingbird that his daughter has always heard from him. As
her father, Atticus has never "forced" her daughter to do anything, and
this time is no exception. The hysteria about Atticus being a racist old
Southern lawyer, is unfounded. The town of Maycomb may have had a
change of viewpoint towards civil rights, but Atticus, is still the same
reserved man fighting the same internal demons that he did in
I wouldn't expect anything else from a single father bringing up his children in a evolving world.
There is a document beside my desk which has a list of goals upon them. One of the goals relates to the current project with an end date.
The end date has passed and the project is not yet complete. Stephen King, on the hand, is about to release his third book this year.
I could manufacture all sorts of excuses - but they would be just that. Unlike my counterparts, I can sense when there is a disturbance in "the force". It can be pinned down to a single event, a date, where everything in the writing world, changed. It became, an eclipse to productivity. Two years later, I am no further out of the "darkness" and struggling to write.
Write, I must, for without writing, there will be no end to the eclipse.
Earlier this week, I was asked "How is the book coming along?"
The answer given at the time was "Fine."
The correct answer resembles something like a list of excuses.
Work has gotten in the way.
There is the issue with X and Y.
I haven't transferred my files across to the new computer.
Truth of the matter is, I've discovered how writers don't have continued success. Lack of consistency. It was pointed out that it has been two years since my last cover. It's been 18 months since I had feature in California. It's been 5 months since I had a feature in Oregon.
Hard to pay the bills without protecting the (currently) non income producing writing time. I understand why writers start and stop. If they fail to see the results, somewhere along the line, they cease, and their story never gets out.