This past few weeks has been a little discouraging in terms of this project. One of the biggest challenges that many authors face is finding enough time to work, because most of them are unable to devote their days to their projects. A few are able to treat writing as a full-time job, because their financial needs are already met or because their writing has generated enough income over the years to equal a "day job" salary. The vast majority of authors, however, must find pockets of time in their lives to work on their writing projects, because they work at regular jobs or tend their children full-time. This has been the case with me my entire life. I have been writing either for fun or for profit since third grade, and I have always had to work around school, jobs, and children. My writing courses, in fact, were written mostly at night after my children had gone to bed or during my planning periods when I substitute-taught. It has been hard, but it is normal.
My Tolkien biography is no exception, but the past couple of months have been particularly difficult because my teaching duties have been so consuming. I finished Humphrey Carpenter's biography only about a week ago--long after I intended--and now I have done nothing at all for a few days. Yet it is late May, and time is a-ticking. My plan from the beginning has been to work full-time on the book through the summer, as if it were a regular job, but I have come to realize that my commitment to this plan will have to be almost fanatical if I am to make it work, because we have decided to move to another town in Tennessee. This alone will take up much of my time and attention, plus I will have to devote some time to my planning for next year's classes, PLUS I am still not finished with this year's teaching duties. It is time to refocus and redouble my efforts, if I am going to make a lot of headway on the book by late August. And I must, because the new school year will also be busy. Argh!
In addition to the struggle for time, I also experienced a setback in my research. To get my facts straight on Tolkien's life, I need to research some of the places associated with him in England. I received some generous help from Sarehole Mill last year, when I was preparing my book proposal, but when I reached out to King Edwards School in Birmingham, I was flatly turned down. I had asked for an interview with the archivist or someone else there who could answer some questions about the school at the turn of the 20th century, such as how entrance examinations were conducted. I was sure that someone would be willing to talk to me for at least a few minutes, since their school would be featured in the book, but nope. I received a little helpful advice when I gently persisted, but that was as far as I got. I got the impression through that exchange that it probably wasn't a rejection based on disinterest as much as a lack of resources or time; still, I was left frustrated. I still don't know where I'm going to get the information I need to write accurately about Tolkien's time at King Edwards school. I can certainly take enough artistic license to imagine it all based on any general information that I do find, but I want it to be realistic.
Well, enough is enough. My fretting must come to an end right now. I have let it all out, but now I must move forward again. There is no time for self-pity or worry. There is only one way forward--my backside in my chair, my fingers on my keyboard, and my low confidence stuffed into my mental storage closet. It's showtime.
Author of Before Austen Comes Aesop: The Children's Great Books and How to Experience Them and Maria von Trapp and Her Musical Family