When I worked my blog writing to-do list a week or so ago, I pegged this post for today, thinking I would give a status report of where I am on Documenting America: Lessons from the United States’ Historical Documents – Civil War Edition. I’ll still do that, but will digress first to explain why my progress of late has been less than hoped for.
About two weeks ago I began to lament 1) the general messiness of my writing workspace; 2) the amount of yard work I have to do after the tree topping; and 3) the fact that I hadn’t done anything with personally budgeting since March. Mix this with the fact that the once every four years World Cup was on, and it was hard to see clear for making much progress on writing.
The weekend before last I began to tackle the mess in The Dungeon. That wasn’t too hard to do, mainly putting back on shelves the many books I had removed to use for references. Then of course were the papers, everywhere. What were all these papers for? Were they necessary to my writing? Quite a few of them were stray notes which, when I looked at them, I couldn’t tell what they were for or about. A lot of them wound up in the recycling bin.
The yard work continues, though I finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I won’t say more about that now.
Last Monday evening (the 7th), I began to work on my budgeting spreadsheet. I did a couple of pages in the checkbook, then shifted to other things. I did this every day last week. Thursday night I had a long phone call with a cousin, and during that call I multi-tasked by making a bunch of entries in the spreadsheet. That put me to the point where Saturday afternoon I had only a few hours and I would be finished. So, rather than write Saturday, I did my finances, and brought them fully up to date. I still have many receipts to file, but it’s a good feeling to have the rest of that done.
So, on to the Civil War Edition, which I’ll abbreviate DA-CWE. I’m working on the second chapter at present. The first chapter is taken from a newspaper account of the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the first military action in the Civil War. I decided some time ago that would be my starting point, leaving documents concerning the run-up to the war for another volume. The first chapter is done (subject, of course, to future editing and polishing).
The second chapter is based on the documents issued by President Lincoln between Fort Sumter and when the Confederacy met in their Congress in late April 1861. The third chapter will be Jefferson Davis’ address to that Congress, and the fourth will be Lincoln’s address to his Congress in July 1861—or maybe I get two chapters out of each of those; can’t remember without having my TOC in front of me. I have the rest of the chapters also planned out, and all but seven of the source documents found, and in hand or linked.
My progress on the second chapter is, so far, limited to excerpting the documents. I believe that is done. I may also have started on the commentary section. In case someone drops by and reads this who isn’t familiar with this budding series, my method is to take a document from USA history, excerpt it down to about 500 to 750 words, and write that much commentary on it. The commentary is a mix of explanation, re-quoting, and tying the issues in the documents to something going on in 21st Century America.
From the first chapter, I can see that tying these Civil War documents to the 21st Century will be the hardest part. The issues that caused the Civil War are not present today. Slavery is gone. Sectionalism is less strong than it once was. So I will have plenty of thinking to do on this portion of each chapter. My fear is that the commentaries will all sound the same after a while. I’ll have to work really hard to make that not so.
Thus, DA-CWE is still in its fledgling stages. I’m working on other projects at the same time, so am not dedicating my full writing time to it. I suspect it won’t be till somewhere around chapter 7 or 8 that I get into a writing rhythm, and start making real progress. I had hoped to get this book out this year, but at this point think that is unlikely. Early 2015 is more probable.