Thursday, May 29, 2008

Journal of a 'Novel'-Entry 45

A Special Edition entry which concerns Fathers and Sons
I dedicate this entry to my own son.

As I am writing this latest entry in my journal, it is Thursday, May 29. Tomorrow morning, May 30, if all goes according to (the latest) plan, my wife is scheduled to be induced into labor, leading to the birth of our third child. Avid readers of this blog, should they exist, may remember Duke's generous post concerning the birth of my second child, Jane Charlotte, in November 2005 (see the archives!). Since this new child is not here yet, I am unable to reveal the baby's name, but I can disclose this: that this third child is our very first boy. Yes, I stand on the cusp of the dream of most men - to meet my first born son. Needless to say we are very much in slightly nervous anticipation mode in our household, but as some faithful family members have pointed out to me, May 30 is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and I have confidence that Jesus' universal love for all of us will include my wife and my newborn son tomorrow, and that, as William Shakespeare put it, 'all manner of things shall be well'.

But this journal is about the making of a novel, and has been following on that course for more than 2 years now; so what does my family situation have to do with it?? By coincidence, or by Providence, the two things seem to be co-mingling in a way I don't think I ever, ever would have expected. I'll explain how.

Currently I am at work on Chapter V of the novel, the concluding chapter to Part I of a planned three parts, as has been pointed out in this journal. In spite of all the upheaval soon to visit our home, I would say I am 'hard at work' on this chapter, and I hope to continue working as hard as I can on it even after my new son comes home and all schedules and routines are overturned. It won't be easy but I will try to do my best. This entire chapter has been difficult in coming and I have had many lapses of discipline in writing it. But I would say that now, probably a little over halfway through the chapter, I am fortunate to be getting that now-familiar feeling I have when I know a chapter will get done. I count on that to occur if I stick to the job, and although this time it came later on in the process, by now it has come. I know I will finish at least this chapter. I am never 100% confident that I will finish the book; but to me it doesn't matter so much as long as I persis with the chapter at hand and worry about getting that one done. The idea is that one day, God willing, I will turn around and one day realize I have the end of the novel well in my sights. As long as I keep persisting, there is no logical reason why that cannot happen.

For the last few days, I have been working on the chapter, and have arrived at a point in the story that, incredibly, happens to correspond almost directly with my own personal experience right now. I never would have predicted this to happen, since the story has been developing organically, and yet it is. The scene I am working on right now in the story takes place in July 1928, just as the protagonist, Walter Brogan, is waiting expectantly on the birth of his firstborn son, Luke. I have him seated on the front porch of his own home, drinking a small tumbler of whiskey (to calm himself - even though it's the era of Prohibition!), while the actual birthing process is taking place in the upper bedchamber right above his head. This scene is partly based on the circumstances of my own father's birth, in 1930, right in the house his family lived in. Of course, fathers in those days would not have been present in the 'delivery room' while their wives gave birth, at least in most circumstances, so Walter Brogan sits and waits elsewhere while his wife struggles through the experience. Later in the scene, I plan to have Ilse, his mother-in-law, join him on the porch while the birth is finishing up, where they will have an exchange that may have significant overtones for later on in the story.

It probably won't be very interesting to anyone else reading this (but the same can be said for the entire journal!), but to me I find it very fascinating indeed that 2+ years into writing the novel my own character and I would arrive at the same significant life moment at the same time. After all, when I write this character, the primary inspiration for me is an imagined version of my own grandfather, upon whom Walter is based. As I never knew him, for me this character is all about an attempt to give him or a version of him some kind of life in my own imagination. In that sense, then, this writing project, if NOTHING else, has actually afforded me a unique opportunity - in the sense that it could only come to a fiction writer attempting something as audacious as this - to experience the anticipation and the subsequent joy of fatherhood along with my own grandfather, in a way.

This, readers, is among the many reasons why the novelist's job is a unique one and filled with its own rewards. This, in short, is one of the fundamental reasons why I write. How else might I be able to have this experience? And it was utterly unplanned and unanticipated, since I didn't know I was ever going to have my own son, didn't know if I was going to include this birth 'scene' in my own novel, and didn't really know where ANY of my story was going to go when I started writing it in March 2006.

Does this, ultimately, point to the hand of Providence in this project? It's a question for me to ponder and perhaps sometime later decide - if I haven't already.

No comments: