On Friday, I found it — the moment in the life of James, one of my biography subjects, when inspiration struck and he realized his mission in this world. The best part is, I got to read about that moment in his own handwriting, because he documented it in his journal at the time it happened.
He couldn’t possibly have known the significance that moment would have for him over the next six or seven decades, but he was utterly moved by it. And so was I. I don’t think I actually got goosebumps, but that was probably because I knew that passage in the journal was coming — I’d read that segment in a book that dealt extensively (but not exclusively) with James’ career.
But I didn’t know how that moment fit into the broader context of his life at that time, and that’s what was most thrilling about seeing the original source for myself. It took lots of willpower to keep from jumping ahead in the journal to the part where James had his epiphany, but it was rewarding — the anticipation of his “Eureka!” moment, sharing his thoughts in the days and weeks preceding it, and getting to know him better through those less momentous moments made for a bigger payoff.
I have two “completed” picture book manuscripts that try to tell James’ story but don’t quite get it. And now it’s tempting to just keep on researching and put off the effort of beginning my third approach, because while I know I’ve struck gold in that journal passage, I don’t have the first idea what I’m going to do with it.
Must be time to let my subconscious earn its keep. Goodnight, all.
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