Sunday, July 19, 2009

Clearing the thickets and building the nest

If you visit my blog regularly, you’ve surely noticed the lack of entries of late. Or, if you’re a new visitor, you may be wondering why you should return to a blog that hasn’t had a new entry for two weeks.

First, let me apologize. I know many of you have come to look forward to the little morsels I find about Abraham Lincoln or Lincoln books and events. I, in turn, look forward to sharing.

Last October, while I was taking a community college course about Lincoln, I began this blog. As I was learning, I was sharing. It just seemed selfish not to. I love learning and I love “teaching.”

Writing, I believe, is a form of teaching. The writer’s classroom consists not of desks in a room or seats in a lecture hall, but words on a page, a computer monitor or, now, even the screen of a mobile device. It’s amazing how this classroom has grown.

So, don’t worry. This isn’t a last blog post. What it is, however, is a window into the past and a lens looking toward the future.

Bringing dreams to life
“Out there, somewhere, there’s a dream. You just have to catch it.”

In my life, I’ve chased and caught many of the same dreams most people pursue – someone to share my life with, a home of our own, children, a career.

Along the way, I’ve seen lots of our shared dreams come true, and I’ve pursued some individual ones as well. Here are just a few of my own:

  • As I pursued my other dreams, I’d set my college education aside midstream. I got back on board and finished it when I was 41 and a brand-new grandmother.
  • I wanted to write for a newspaper. In 1998, that dream came true when I had my first freelance book review published in The State Journal-Register, the paper Lincoln called his friend.
  • As I learned of the plans for a Springfield (Ill.) library and museum honoring the 16th President, I looked forward to it for years. I was the seventh person in line on the day it opened to the public and wrote of the experience for two central Illinois newspapers.
  • I started a seven-year plan in 2002, when I first learned of the celebrations planned for the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. I wrote, “I want to be doing significant Lincoln-related work by his 200th birthday.” I had to set this plan aside for awhile, and worried it was a dream that wouldn’t come true. Yet, as dreams often do, when things began to fall into place – the Lincoln course, the blog, the opportunity to attend many Lincoln-related events – it was better than I’d ever imagined possible.

The next dream – even bigger than the rest
With other dreams behind me, I’m now ready to move on to the next – and it’s a big one!

I’ll soon begin work on my own Lincoln books. I know it will be a lot of long days, short nights and painful battles making words work together just so. It will also require research beyond anything I’ve ever done in the past – making sure no stone is unturned, perusing hundreds of existing works on Lincoln and my proposed related subjects, spending long hours pouring over primary sources, trying to find some truth in all the myth and everything mythic that surrounds this subject who is gargantuan.

Before I begin
Before I begin, however, I must make sure conditions are right. I can think of endless imagery to describe what I’m going through right now, but two come to mind most strongly – a thicket and a nest. Let me tell you why.

Those of you who know me know I’m not a person who has just one thing going on at a time. I’ve never just gone to work, come home at night and settled into the nest. I’ve nearly always had another job or obligation, including but not limited to, apartments, school, and outside interests.

I’m also one of those people who buys magazines boasting, “Organize your life,” on the front cover, but then adds that volume to the stack in the box in the closet. It’s topped by two other boxes before the next “Conquer clutter” volume finds its way into the house. Creating order has always taken a back burner to all the other things I wanted to or had to do. And, I’ve always saved all those things I “might need for a story some day.” Never mind that I couldn’t have found them anyway. Just knowing they were there somewhere was comforting – sort of.

What wasn’t comforting was realizing I couldn’t move forward without clearing the way. I knew I had to clear the thicket before I could truly forge my Lincoln path. So, folks, that’s why I’ve been absent from cyberspace. I’m sorting and purging and organizing the things I’ve gathered in the past.

The image accompanying this blog post is a thicket behind the lean-to on a barn at New Salem. As I looked at it, I remembered some of the stories I’d read in John Hallwas’s Western Illinois University course, Literature of Illinois.

When early settlers came to Illinois, they often encountered such scenes and had to forge through the thickets and bramble bushes to get to the beautiful virgin prairie lying on the other side. I imagined what it must have been like for Lincoln and his family as they moved westward. And, then, the thicket became a symbol for me. Clear the path, Ann, and you can start your journey. You can write your book.

So, I’m currently working to get all those things I “might need someday” well organized so I can find them when I do. And, as I do, I’m building the nest where my books will be germinated, incubated and hatched.

Still learnin’ and comin’ back
While I’m spending evenings and weekends on this other project, I haven’t set my quest for new Lincoln knowledge aside, though. I’m listening to books on tape on my commute to work and reading the latest Lincoln books over lunch and when I can steal a few minutes here and there. You’ll hear all about them eventually.

So, please, come back. I will. In the meantime, if you haven’t read all my previous posts, please do. I’ve written more than 170 articles about Lincoln since last October. Though a few are time-sensitive, most are not. Please scroll down on the left-side of the blog to the Labels area or the Blog Archive, or just use the Search at the top left to seek a Lincoln topic in which you’re interested. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something you’ll enjoy reading.

And, don’t worry. I’m not leaving you. I will be blogging again soon, even as I begin research on my books. Until then, please, continue your quest to learn more about Lincoln. I’m continuing mine.

© Copyright 2009 Ann Tracy Mueller. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I wish you luck on your new venture writing books about Lincoln. It sounds like quite an overwhelming project so I can understand why you need to get organized. I'll try to pop in when I can to check how you're doing!