Since I started blogging a few months ago about my experiences as a first-time novelist (at age forty, no less, but hurrah for that!), I have been very thorough on the topic of The Struggle. You know the struggle I mean. Letting go of the book you thought you were supposed to write to make way for something new. Trying not to obsess about selling when you should be concentrating on story. Writer's block. My dad telling me my book was for women. (Look for another post about our continuing conversation--yes my dad is awesome--soon.) But today I am here to say, I had kind of a great writing week! (I don't want to go too far, as I am as superstitious as a baseball player.) So I thought, better go with it. It's Friday. Time to share the joy; time to share the love.
So I want to know: have you had a joyous writing moment lately? One of those moments where, despite the fact that you are all alone, you smile so hard your face hurts, you laugh out loud, or you even cry, overcome by something you've created on the page? Or even one of those quiet moments--and perhaps these are the best kind--when in the process of writing you discover something about the world, or about yourself, that you never knew before?
This is a simple post, and it has to be good karma. I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.
One of the main characters in my novel is a brilliant physicist in her early sixties. Her pride and joy is her collection of artifacts from renowned, or, more likely, little-known, female mathematicians and scientists. I'd done some research on this already, trying to imagine what her most prized possessions would be, and one day, while the matter was on my mind, opened up the New York Times to find an article featuring Augusta Ada King, the Countess of Lovelace (and Byron's daughter, no less), widely regarded as the first computer programmer. Wow! This week, however, I did myself one better. When poking around for other items my physicist might cherish, I stumbled on a website listing famous women mathematicians, and was surprised to see Florence Nightingale's name on the list. I followed the internet trail to the heart of the matter, only to discover that Nightingale was indeed an accomplished statistician, considered the first person ever to use graphs in the cause of social reform. She invented what is known as "the rose diagram", which she also referred to as "coxcombs," and when I saw its image, it took my breath away, it was so beautiful. (I've included it above, but to watch a short BBC video on the subject, click here.)
This discovery took my breath away, however, for another reason--and it was for this reason that, when I saw Nightingale's diagrams, a big ole writing-joy smile spread across my face. Because one of my other main characters is a doctor. The reason for my research at that particular moment? I was writing a scene where the two women meet. I had been trying to come up with something in my physicist's collection that would disarm, and irresistibly intrigue, my skeptical medical doctor.
And there it was, a gift from the past. A bloom in every sense of the word. In her apartment, my physicist would display an original copy of the rose diagram Florence Nightingale presented to the queen in the cause of reform, and my doctor, upon entering, would be awed by it.