I’ve been in the doldrums lately. Part of it is purely personal — this week marks four years since our second son, D, was stillborn. It’s a rough time of year that starts in, oh, late April, lasts until around Father’s Day, and peaks right now.
But part of my funk has been professional — not on the sales side of things, but on the creative front. I’ve been juggling a couple of projects, doing a lot of reading and rough-drafting for them both, and not being satisfied with where I’ve gotten with either one.
One of the projects, a biographical-based picture book about a jazz musician, had a problem I hadn’t dealt with before. The story has two main chronological sections, but while the climax occurs in the latter section (duh), the drama — in fact, the emphasis of the entire story — all seems to be in the front section.
So imagine my surprise when I took a good look at my eight-page manuscript and discovered that the second section is at least as long as, and possibly longer than, the first section. How could that be?
The answer is that the first section had more brief scenes — specific, detailed, purposeful scenes that gave the impression that I actually knew what I was writing about. The second section did not — the manuscript shifted drastically from showing to telling, has zero sense of place, and springs the climactic scene on the reader seemingly out of nowhere.
Since this manuscript is merely biographical-based rather than a true biography, and since the two principal characters are no longer living, I had assumed that my imagination was more key to this story than was anything beyond rudimentary research. I began to suspect that I was wrong about that, a suspicion that was confirmed when I actually began doing more fact-gathering.
And what has gotten me excited this very morning is my discovery that three musicians who were well acquainted with at least one of the principal characters are still alive (all are around 80 years old). It took some digging, but I found contact information for them all. That means I might get to do some interviews, a prospect which has set me all aquiver in a way I hadn’t expected.
I needed this boost. By contrast, my enthusiasm for my other project — for which interviews seem to be out of the question — is cooling by the second. There’s a lesson in here, I think, about what kind of project — or what kind of approach to my projects — suits me best, at this time of year or any other. I just hope I remember this lesson next time I’m ready to start something new.