Daydreams of time

What would you do if you had more leisure time? I’m sitting outside on a glorious Sunday afternoon, cool in the shade and warm in the sun, listening to the sort of rock music meant for summer. I’m edged in a short hour between my Pastor Nominating Committee meeting & follow up emails and when I need to leave to catch a plane for Chicago for work for the next few days.*

Real life: Sunday morning soccer

My life is filled with meaningful and joyful work, almost all of which requires me to sit at a computer. Funny that, isn’t it?

But I’ve lately been having fantasies of what I’d do if I actually had real blocks of unencumbered time in which to do stuff I wanted to do (as opposed to the stuff I already decided to do – I’m a lover of novelty!). I’m quite sure I’d end up filling those hours (if not quite a packed as they are now…)

Real life: Counting the proceeds from our “change drive” for Heifer in my Sunday School class

My fantasy life isn’t what it once was. This may be partially because so many fantasies of youth have come true. I am married to a guy I totally dig, and who seems happy with me. I have two happy, healthy children. I’m working my dream job. I have a D20 tea mug. Hard to improve on this.

But lately I’ve been daydreaming a lot about writing, and history.

Real Life Saturday: foraging in the Fells

Anyway, a recent fantasy has to do with being an author. I have wanted to be an author since I first realized that a) you had to have a job b) writing books was a job. Unfortunately, I have never written a book. This puts a damper on one’s authorship. But I’ve recently come to imagine what series of books I want to write. I always wanted to write fantasy novels a la Tolkien. But it turns out I’m terrible at it. As I’ve sunk into true belonging into this amazing town I live in, though, I’ve discovered all this phenomenal history, and remarkable stories. You’ve heard me talk about this before, but it seems like every few months I find out something new and amazing about the town.

The most recent discovery came when I did a tour of Lindenwood Cemetery only to learn that Stoneham was *apparently* a hotbed of the Spiritualist Movement.

Mind you, not everyone was a fan of spiritualism.

So my latest brilliant idea is to write a series of mystery novels, loosely set in the history of Stoneham. It would start with the naked sailors & wolf attacks of the early 1700s. It would wind it’s way through the blood and suffering of the Revolutionary War. We’d get Jacob Gould’s murder, of course. The Spiritualists would follow. Perhaps then the Civil War and the Underground Railroad. That would be followed by the pugilists on Spot Pond & the mysterious “Where Shute Fell” marker in the roaring 20s (even the cursory research for this post points out that the marker far predates the prohibition prize fights!). We’d dedicate time to the great Pan Pacific Race, where Stoneham was wrongfully denied it’s place in history by cheating.

I might stop there, coming at that point to close to living remembrance to steal so boldly. Or it might be, in doing the depth and research of learning I would have to do to write these books, I’d uncover even more rich stories in the interstices. I imagine the books being threaded together by the lives of the people who span them. Silas Dean would show up often, in fact or in memory. Elizur Wright might be the hero of the Civil War book. Maybe there’d be two Civil War books – same time, two perspectives. Honestly, I might be a happy woman for decades just doing research until I felt like I knew enough to start writing. (Although given my personality, I’d probably start writing and then get sidetracked on the research.)

Doesn’t that sound like fun? Can’t you see my notebooks spread out before me, a look of concentration on my face? Can’t you imagine me hovering over the library’s microfiche machine? I imagine falling into long digressions with Dolly in the library, following heretofore unknown threads of history. Consider the hikes in the Fells to see _that spot_. The joy of unearthing just the perfect picture from forgotten archives. The maps that would need to be made and adjusted for each one of these moments in time. The cast of characters set and threaded through books.

For example, while I was writing this, Dolly sent me this picture of my neighborhood (Nobility Hill) c. 1900

Then imagine the books actually get published, to some degree of success. (Let’s be clear, this falls well into the realm of utmost fantasy.) Imagine the sectional in the library touting the local author! The tour of local sites by the Historical Commission! A book signing at the Book Oasis (where the patrons thrill to imagine the courage of the Underground Railroad travelers and conductors on the very spot where they now stand)! Imagine my sleepy town rising from the backwater of history to claim its place next to Concord and Lexington. (OK, probably not that much, but maybe people would have heard of it?) Imagine citizens walking past Silas Dean’s house with a sense of awe and ownership.

It’s a pretty good fantasy, as fantasies go.

So, you ask, what would it take to do it? The reason it’s a fantasy is because I have some idea what it takes, and I don’t have it. I’d guess it would take an hour a day, four weekdays a week. Then probably a 3 hour research block + an hour a day writing time on weekends. Obviously there could be breaks & vacations, but I find the momentum & continuity pretty critical to writing a coherent work. That’s time I simply don’t have. Last time I did Nanowrimo, my whole family felt neglected and left out. They’re my first priority, so that just won’t work. Maybe someday I’ll have that extra hour a day I need, but I don’t see that day anytime soon.

Until then, you’ll just have to continue to be my writing outlet, dear friends!
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What about you? What daydreams do you hold on to? What mighta-coulda beens while away your pleasant thoughts?

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*A friend commented how remarkable it was that I always took precisely the 10 – 11 hour on Monday mornings to write my blog post. Let me clarify – I write the post over the weekend and schedule publication. The timing is so that people actually read it, since posting on a weekend is a great way to have a readership of 10.

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My truant pen

In many ways it’s ironic that I’m such a happy denizen of the internet. I have this great and passionate love affair with paper and pen. For example, the other day my husband and I went on a date to Borders. (What? You’ve probably done the same thing.) While there, I purchased a gift for my 16 year old self. It’s a black leather journal embossed with a Celtic knot. 16-year-old-me went nuts over it, and promptly began writing poetry about how very alone I am, interspersed with overwrought descriptions of rain. (What can I say? I was raised in the Northwest!) You think that I started writing when blogs were invented? Hardly. I just switched from paper journals to blogs.

In some ways I prefer blogs. Paper journals never talked back.

In other ways, I miss the beauty and tactile fulfillment of paper and pen. There is an intense satisfaction to page after page of imprinted Bic writing in my even, if unlovely hand. The feel of a journal, with secrets, in your hand, lends your words a feeling of weight. You build, literally, upon the pages of the past.

I remember I always had problems when writing my journals with audience. I always wrote TO people. With a journal, I just never knew who those people were, although I pondered. My unthought-of children? My future self? My biographers? Now I know. I write to YOU.

There is a pen at the top of this blog. This is not a coincidence. It is an expression of my fancy and fantasy. I will likely now never write anything of great consequence with a pen. It is far too slow compared to the flying dance my fingers do over the keyboard. But I dream of ink, of creamy blank paper, and of the filling of space with words of import.