Work in Progress #22 for My Emily Post Biography: Making Space for a Large Thought

emily postWhen you’re writing a longer book, it moves forward in layers. On the surface, one word follows another and a sentence happens; one sentence follows another and a paragraph happens; one paragraph follows another and a chapter happens.

Underneath the words and sentences and paragraphs, themes also have to be moving forward and these can be harder to deal with. A good biography wants to say something deeper than the accomplishments and events of particular person’s life. A good biography wants to answer the reader’s question: “Why should I care about this person you want to tell me about?”

I’m in Golden, Colorado for two weeks, taking care of my daughter and son-in-law’s dog, Ska, while they’re traveling in France. Between walks and feedings and pettings, I’ve had time to write words and sentences and paragraphs (though not yet a chapter!) The long blocks of time have also given me space to think about something larger, the underneath layer: Why am I writing about Emily Post? What makes her worth knowing? She drew me so strongly that I know there’s an answer to that question but, so far, my responses to friends who’ve asked have been lame. I haven’t really taken the time to chase down the answer to that very important question.

So I stopped writing words and sentences and paragraphs for an afternoon and took advantage of this two-week writing space to chase down a large thought: Why am I writing about Emily Post? I paced back and forth in my daughter’s living room just thinking about that. The words I wrote earlier in the day described an event: Emily and Amelia Earhart took part in a panel convened by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934. Emily Post and Amelia Earhart…such different women. Amelia was purposeful and tenacious and driven.  Yet I am not in any way drawn to write about her. Why did I choose Emily and not Amelia?  What is it about Emily Post that fascinated me?

The answer hits me like the proverbial bolt of lightning. I have always known it was out there, floating just beyond my reach and now, suddenly, I have it in hand. I know clearly why I am writing about Emily Post. The reason, so elusive up until now, needs to be carefully inserted, hinted at in each chapter I’ve written so far and, in my final three chapters, pulled from the shadows onto center stage.

Putting words and sentences and paragraphs onto a page is only part of the writing process. Sometimes it’s necessary to use a space of time to think a very large thought that produces not more visible words but unseen infrastructure…a certain sturdiness…the why of it all…because words can be so frail and flimsy.

I have not finished chapter 11. But I know why I am writing a biography about Emily Post.  It has been a productive day.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

Connie Nordhielm WooldridgeBiography | View

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