I have been working hard on my book these past months and have finally begun to put it together! By that I mean, I have a stack of 88 pages of my first draft! I’ve dreamed my whole life of writing a book, and now it is becoming real between my fingers.
Right now I am focusing on the combination of Vincent’s narrative (excerpts from the newest translation of his letters printed in an amazing font based on his handwriting) and my narrative (journal entries about art and Vincent), and I will bring in my research in the second draft. Mostly because I am on a roll! I am finally putting my words next to his, and like a weaver, I watch the themes emerge from the entwined threads: doubt, depression, lost love, poverty — yes, but also faith in nature, distrust of society, an ardent desire to become a conduit of love, to spread beauty with our art and thus, discover the truth at humanity’s core.
I am moving along our lifetimes chronologically: from 20 to 26 years old in my life, and from 27 to 37 years old in his life. It takes a lot of organization of over 700 hundred pages of text.
A mentor of mine pointed out years ago that I like to start big with my projects, and then edit, cut, and sculpt away the excess until I am left with what I was really pursuing. She was totally right, of course! This is happening on a grand scale for this book, however.
I have seen the pages of my book in my head many times, but only now do I hold the pieces in my hands, only now do I hold my book in my hands.
But what’s your ultimate goal, you’ll say. That goal will become clearer, will take shape slowly and surely, as the croquis becomes a sketch and the sketch a painting, as one works more seriously, as one digs deeper into the originally vague idea, the first fugitive, passing thought, unless it becomes firm. (Between 22 and 24 or June 1880 to Theo)
This quote is from the first letter of Vincent’s that is in my book. He is around 27, and is just coming to understand that he is an artist. Like me, he resisted the idea at first. I contrast this letter with my first few journal entries about him, how I was wandering around Paris at 20, “falling in love with Van Gogh” as I called him then. I must admit it’s rather charming to reread my words as I fall deeper and deeper in love with his work, farther into the cavernous depths of my research, and creatively become ensorcelled with this project and its various iterations over the past six years.
One interesting stylistic element I have stumbled upon, was how to mark edits within a letter or entry. I remembered one scrapbooking tool I had come across months before, and well… I think it works damn beautifully.
And as I sift through his words and mine for the essence of our relationship, separating the wheat from the chaff with various tools and blades, I find I am once again reaping. Vincent planted the seeds over a century ago for me to find, and now they have blossomed and lured me to my task.
The most exciting news is that, looking at my pace, my book will be ready to send out to agents by the end of the year. I originally hoped to send out the first few chapters to agents now, but after reading up on some publishing advice it’s become clear I need to have a full draft I’m proud of before I start bothering agents. Either way, I’ve got a schedule now, and it’s conservative. I might even finish sooner!
I hope you’ll forgive me for my sporadic entries in the meantime, Reader. There is little I want more in my life right now than to finish this book. It drives me onward, endlessly, and chastises me when I work on anything else.
Art is jealous and demands all our time, all our strength… (6 June 1882 to artist and friend Anthon van Rappard)