Monday, April 7, 2014

Optimism Pays Off

I got in late last night after a long road trip. Hence, my tardiness.

Last week I mentioned that I was having trouble with my WIP and hoped this post would be happier. Well, it is in a way. In the time since I last posted to this blog, I have written an additional 20 pages to the book. I only have three chapters to go until the first draft is complete!

I haven't decided what I'm going to do after it's finished. Should I take a break from writing completely or should I go back and edit my other novel, The Hammer and the Keys? I've been thinking about changing that title. I've been away from it for so long that my brain has worked through some of the major plot holes that need to be filled.

Sadly, the aforementioned road trip was to my girlfriend's grandfather's funeral. The good news is that it happened to fall on the weekend, so I didn't have to miss any classes to be with her and the family. She sacrificed a lot of her Christmas break to be with me when my grandfather died three months ago, and there was no way on Earth I was going to leave her in the cold when she needed me. The weather couldn't have been any more cooperative.

While I was gone I picked up my copy of The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck. I'm halfway through James Michener's Chesapeake, but I've decided to jump ship.

The novel was Steinbeck's last work of fiction before his death in 1968. Critics didn't like the book when it first came out, especially after the Nobel committee cited it as one of Steinbeck's greatest when they awarded him the Prize. What I think is interesting is that the book was published in 1961, before America was mired in the Vietnam War or the counter-culture's rabid challenge of the establishment. The mid-1960s is often cited as a point where America's moral decline began in ernest.

Of course, trying to pinpoint an exact time when any nation begins to misbehave is absurd. Once a heart turns away from God, that's when decline begins. There were plenty of men beating their wives and drinking themselves to death in the 1950s. There were sexual deviants in the Victorian Era. The only difference between now and then is that you had less to gain by publicly airing such scandal, and the perpetrators were often protected by social prejudices.

I marvel at any writer who's able to capture the mood and outlook of a group of people. Steinbeck is most famous for his "California" novels: East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men. These works tell the story of people during the Great Depression in a land that was marketed as a paradise.

Steinbeck is most identified with migrant workers. Hemingway is championed as the man who represents America post-WWI. I wonder, if someone wrote a novel about my generation, 1989 onwards, what would it look like?

Last week was neither the best of times nor the worst. There was plenty of good to mix with the bad.

Optimism, I've found, is the ability to endure the bad.

I got sick and had to stop writing. Then, I got better and started writing again.

My grandfather died and my girl was there to comfort me. Then, her grandfather died and I was able to comfort her.

Gee, it's almost as if everything in life has...a purpose?

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