#251: History has its Words for You

When it comes to days of rest I’ve had few lately. Not a complaint, just a statement of fact. We’ve been traveling some: Five days in New York, then a separate trip to Cleveland, where Hamilton was showing at the State Theatre and tickets were (relatively) affordable. Friends, I finally saw it.

Construction on the house keeps moving along, too. The staircase has been rebuilt, the upstairs bathroom is completely gutted, and the kitchen and den have new subfloors, though I’ve still been mired in making choices about fixtures and finishes.

The freedom of a blank slate is sometimes overwhelming. What kind of tile on the wall? How does it match with the tile on the floor? Do I even need tile? Do I even need floors?! Okay, yes on floors. And while it’s not building a new house from scratch, it’s not living in one and gradually improving it either. It’s somewhere in between: there are quirks for sure, but I haven’t co-existed with them for years. There are things I’d like to take my time with, but then I have a general contractor and a mortgage that requires me to use one, and with this: schedules and budgets, specification and inspections.

A word whispered: constraints. I forget how much I need them. The voice-recording format of See You in the Cosmos was a joy to wrestle with, and made writing more puzzle-like, more fun. And after digesting the feedback on the first draft of GRACE and talking to my editor, I’m now rewriting the second draft with an additional, historical storyline.

Let me tell you: it’s been liberating. There are events – real events! – to build around. An existing structure, some of its walls immovable. Those historic events are another character in the story – in some cases a supporting one, but always a presence in the room. This character speaks, automatically, and supplies dialogue to respond to. I think about Lin-Manuel, earbuds-in, typing away at his laptop, with a heavily chewed of Ron Chernow’s biography within arm’s reach, listening for that dialogue. And responding with his own.

I’m no Lin-Manuel. But for this book, at least, I’m starting to find that voice.