by Monica Ross
I got an idea recently for a book that I would like to write. I’ve started to work on the topic for maybe only just about a week or so now. I was describing the idea to a friend and how I wasn’t sure how it would all synthesize in the end because there are so many subject areas that tie into the topic I'm looking at.
She said to me something like “you’re just digging piles now.” She is a writer, as well.
It got me thinking about archeology. When I was in high school and trying to identify what I wanted to do as a career, I came up with two potential options—that I either I wanted to be a marine biologist or an archeologist.
My junior year high school English teacher was trying to put us in contact with someone who worked in the field of our career choice. She wanted more for us I think to be the ones to reach out to that person ourselves and for whatever reason it never materialized for me. I never got to speak with that marine biologist or archeologist at that age.
I mean I lived 30 minutes from Sea World San Antonio which had been built I think not too many years previous and then there was Texas State University or The University of Texas at Austin up the road, so conceivably I could have spoken with people in either field. Somehow it all got lost in the turning in of quizzes and homework and we rolled right into another project I think.
At any rate, I mention it because I equate this process of attempting to write a book to the process of going on an archeological dig. I am creating piles. The way I see it it’s like I have this idea and it’s taken me to one part of the excavation site.
I’ve got my digging tools--a trowel, a foam mat for kneeling on, I’ve got a magnifying glass, and I’ve got my paint brush.
I've started in an area where maybe something has risen to the surface through one of my sessions with a client, something obvious. And I’m gingerly working on this idea to see what’s there and where the research will take me.
Then once that’s done, I’ll move on to another portion of the site. I’ll do some uncovering there. All the while, I have a loose concept of what I’ll uncover because of the location, the time period, the environment, and the culture that bore it. But there has to be room for discovery and a kind of openness to the process itself. There are still a lot of unknowns.
And I won’t ultimately be able to put all the pieces together until I’ve worked the whole site and until I uncover all that I possibly can, hopefully with some help. It’s all there, all connected, all waiting beneath the surface to represent some kind of synthesized whole.
In the end, it will all come together.
It’s an exciting thing just the idea of writing a book and a painstaking process. It takes patience and if nothing else, just a consistent showing up to do the work even when it feels tiresome or tedious. I might happen upon a major archeological discovery or a minor one.
Or I may find in the end that there really isn’t enough material there to pull something together. Maybe I'll abandon the dig midway. Or maybe, I might find as I work through to the end is that what is there is fragmented and leaves more to the reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps.
Or possibly, I could find that there is a clear and consistent, preserved, detailed, beautiful whole site that is well-built, clearly delineated, clearly laid out and leaves little room to the imagination. But right now the task feels very much like a process of making sense of it all—digging away and connecting all the pieces.