What a year this month has been already! But I had a couple of extra days off, and I’ve been having energy for things again, so some of the chaos has been the kind that, when it settles down, actually leaves things tidier than they were before. I mopped my kitchen floor on Monday, can you believe it?
Last year was a disaster and I’m glad it’s over, though the various disasters are not done with yet. The occasional bursts of energy I’ve had so far this month, I’ve mainly used to catch up on things I let slip for lack of energy to take care of. Still, I got no end of joy from how easy it was to do dishes this week. It’s been ages since that last happened.
I have several sewing projects going on at once, and the pile I threw them into, in the corner of the living room, before haring off to visit family a couple of weeks ago, is truly monstrous. But when you’re hanging onto that particular combination of tactile things as a hook to snag your sanity on, it’s a small price to pay. Amazing how much you can accomplish quickly when sitting on the floor is your main activity outside of work (five or six days a week), church (an entire day every week), and what house chores you can cram into the little energy you have left over, which you require about eleven hours of sleep per night to maintain. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until my mind cleared enough for me to see that now things are better. For now, at least. And thanks to a couple of recent developments, I need to go through my projects in progress, and the list of ones to make after them, and re-order their priority.
For the brain-fog has lifted, and I may soon have less time for sewing as I turn myself to writing once again. (At least for as long as this wave of energy lasts.)
That thing I haven’t done with nearly my usual enthusiasm for any length of time since I finished the Two-Legged League.
To be sure, I’ve picked up a few projects since then, and I dropped them all again within three weeks, but I did make a little progress every time. This is something I’ll have to write more about at another time, but the thing that keeps me motivated to work on my fiction is that (consciously or not) one of the main things the characters will be working through or wondering about in a given work is also one of the main things I’m working through or wondering about in my own life. I do a fair bit of processing the current things in my life through my fiction, thus. The TLL followed this pattern: for most of the time I was working on it, I was asking questions about how to keep people alive long enough to be able to think about the bigger questions of life: the place that the little things like crocuses or really good sandwiches have in tethering us to life, so that we can still be alive to think about transcendentals and things.
About the time I finished its first draft I also finished the first draft of STOML, and, being in a better mental place by then, went on to other questions. The latter work left me completely drained, even burnt out, when it came to writing, and I gave myself time to rest. Then in 2020 I was busy learning with joy about Divine Love, and life was being gentle to me (if to no one else), and I was soaking up good and beautiful things and having one good day after another after another after another, and storing up those things in myself as strength against the inevitable day when things were not so good. Not that the year was perfect, but I was learning to be hopeful. The day came, of course, when things went bad. Most of the following year, as you know, was a continual struggle. What little fiction writing I did in 2020 lacked urgency compared to the business of actually living: I mostly didn’t need the shelter of escaping into another world. What little fiction writing I did in 2021 lacked urgency compared to the way my life was actively getting blown to pieces: I needed a more bomb-proof shelter (the door to which proved to be the Litany of Trust).
With the lifting of the brain-fog this week came a flood of thoughts, busy activity upstairs, and a new idea for the TLL.
Make it a three-book series.
When I was starting to make a few revisions, shortly after finishing the first draft, one of my beta-readers said it needed a later ending than what I gave it (in 1921 or thereabouts). We needed to see just how much healing all of our protagonists had done. She wasn’t wrong about that, but lengthening the book didn’t feel right, and stuffing it into an epilogue at the end without showing their growth (something I thought important) wasn’t quite right either. And there I left things until this week.
To do their growth and healing justice, writing more books where they can take as long as they need to makes perfect sense. And one of the things that made the epilogue idea not quite right was actually an advantage to the idea of a series: that you can do all the healing you like from the horrors of the Great War, but what have you to look forward to (though only the readers know it) but a worldwide economic depression and another war, culminating in an atomic bomb? But if you look at it in terms of extra books it makes a lot more sense.
Book one will remain mostly as it now stands: the aftermath of WWI, our four protagonists discovering Chesterton, and figuring out how to hang onto being alive long enough to then be able to ask the big questions; learning what the value of the small things truly is. The world needs a Two-Legged League to go around telling people that they are not dead yet.
Book two: the Great Depression (yes, it affected Britain too), the world really needs a Two-Legged League; and the League is now stable enough to start asking the big questions. In book one they learn the value of the little things, but also that ultimately the activities of the League are not quite enough: so what is? What’s enough to hold people together? And other transcendental questions, of course, but these I have just named are some of the ones I’m grappling with myself at the moment: hence this period of inspiration and motivation. Thew and Rosamund will probably be the main p. o. v. characters in this book, as they’re the ones already grappling most with these kinds of things.
Book three: Chesterton dies, WWII, the world really needs a TLL, Tolkien publishes the Hobbit, we ponder big questions about living in the age of the atomic bomb. The main p. o. v. characters will probably be Poppy and Blair, because their main struggles are very related to the kinds of things an atomic bomb brings up. (I have a feeling Lewis’ essay “On Living In An Atomic Age” will feature prominently.)
Shenanigans throughout, of course, and plots and things, and tons more research. Do I really have spare time to take on another book’s load of research? Not really; but the thing is, if I postpone all this till a convenient time, I’ll have lost the motivation too.
So. I bet no one was expecting quite that twist, but then, neither was I. Which is normal, really.