Letter From Northern Ireland

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I know my “daily journal” here has been more intermittent this week than usual. I have found myself so extra-motivated in writing that blogging has had to take a back seat. And I have been writing lots.

On Wednesday, I blogged about one bit. Yesterday I became immersed in a muzzleloader-pistol-packing, life-threatening scene. (“I assure you, sir, I will shoot her.”) I also wrote two emotionally heavy and important letters.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of books.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of books.

Letters are a marvelous way to delve into a character’s mind. However, we have a tendency now – I believe – to want merely to scan or even just pass over large chunks of italicized text or excessively long offset blocks of words. A letter has to fit cleanly into the reading flow and not be jarring in such a way that a reader feels it may be just skimmed or even ignored. (Our 21st century reading habits are such that I admit – and you may have noticed – that I’m a big fan of deliberately writing “3 sentence” paragraphs whenever possible.)

Yesterday’s work contains way too many big spoilers, so I won’t share details. I will say, though, that one letter from a son to a father revolved mostly around witnessing the guillotine in action. Not exactly pleasant reading…nor, for that matter, writing.

Eighteenth century letters often bemoaned separation. They were used as well as a means to try to combat loneliness and a sense of isolation. Yet so many letters were also lost in transit and never reached their intended recipient. (“I write this now not knowing if you should ever see these words…”)

Despite that distinct possibility, those letters could also be chatty in a manner similar to how we use social media. (“I resolve to spend this Paris evening speaking with you in Columbia County, for I must tell you of this.”) As the character was concluding the letter and briefly changed the subject dramatically (“Father, there is a young lady…”), I found myself unexpectedly moved. I thought briefly about my own life, my own family once, and realized how any of us sharing such news with our parents is a lifetime-defining moment.

Having had more than enough of guillotines, pistols and brigands for one day, after closing the Microsoft Surface I ventured downstairs and found the post scattered on the floor near the front door. Amidst the junk mail and catalogs was a true gem of the sort many of us now rarely see any longer. I was holding in my hands an actual – YES, REALLY – letter:

Envelope from Belfast. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Envelope from Belfast. [Photo by me, 2016.]
You may remember recently when I noted my Queen’s University, Belfast first year student niece had let it be known that she wished to write letters to stay in touch and not only rely on Facebook. I decided to write her one and did so after we visited her in Belfast a couple of weeks ago. Well, yesterday that true gem that came through the letterbox was from my niece. She had replied to my letter:

Letter from Belfast. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Letter from Belfast. [Photo by me, 2016.]
And if you read her last line, you see she notes my handwriting is “perfect.”

Uh, a reminder: This is my handwriting:

In 2016, starting an actual LETTER. [Photo by me.]
In 2016, starting an actual LETTER. [Photo by me.]

Okay, how 18th century of us, writing letters. Today, for me it’s back novel-wise again to that 18th century. I’m working on some intrigue shared after a funeral (“I’m here, yes, but they think I’m in England.”) and more on a visit to Spain (full details at some point in the future). ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve learned that whenever you find yourself in what you believe to be an unusual “burst of creativity” while writing, you have to run with it for as long as possible to the exclusion of much else. Because eventually, it does fizzle. You need to wring as much out of it as you can before that happens…and you feel once more like a mere mortal again.

Have a good weekend! ๐Ÿ™‚

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