John Steinbeck had a habit of writing in his journal before attempting to write his daily quota of fiction; a sort of flexing of the literary muscles before tackling the arduous task of creation. He wrote so many journal entries—one per day almost—that these notes and letters were compiled into books that are still in print. Thus, we have Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, and Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath, and perhaps others that we know not of.
So, as I sit down to get my third book ready for publication— the novel that I have slaved over for seven years, written at least six drafts of, had critiqued by various readers from academics to personal friends and my wife, had edited by three different editors, and had copious debates about with my publisher and his team—I am wondering whether all the effort is really going to pay off. Why the heck do we put ourselves through so much agony to communicate an idea? And it is an idea, after all. Are we writers that egotistical that we will die for our ideas, and also die if they are not communicated?
I have decided to write short notes in my blog of the daily challenges in getting this “dystopian novel of hope,” as my publisher calls it, ready for publication; a book that is set in the not•too•distant future where pretty awful things happen to our planet. My concern is not so much with the uncontrollable events in this cataclysm but in the way mankind responds to these disasters foretold as long ago as in the Book of Revelation. Will we built a new Camelot, or will we screw it up again? Given the recent stock market messes, we seem to be heavily invested in the latter camp. When do we get it? And what do we need in order to get it?
I have tried to provide some answers, some hope, because I am generally an optimist. But then, as Chekov said, the writer does not need to interpret or figure out answers—that is the reader’s job. The writer needs only to show. But that seems to be a bit of a cop•out, just like those guys asking for bail•out money because they could not run credible businesses. Well, I have taken a stab at trying to figure a way forward. I hope my readers will be kind to me, even if they do not agree.