When I was quite young, my grandmother gave me her copy of Little Women. (Actually, it may have been her mother’s copy. It was antique, to put it kindly, and as it began to disintegrate under my many readings, Grandma gave me a lovely new edition as well as the other books. But I still have her book, crumbled binding, yellowed pages, and all.)
While I adored the story of the March sisters – especially Jo! – the chapters in which Alcott uses Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress were not my favorite. Alcott makes plain what “the little books” Marmee gave her daughters contain, and that the girls use the lessons each in their own way. Still, the chapters are preachy – and meant to be so.
Yet the language used, and the images Bunyan created and Alcott appropriated – and we should remember that her readers of the time were likely very familiar with Bunyan’s book – stuck with me. Everyone has periods of despair in their life, trials to bear, weeks where it seems as if each day is never-ending. The Slough of Despond was a perfect image of those times.
While I’m not stuck in the Slough of Despond personally, my book is. I’m *this* close to writing the ending. And once that’s done, I have notes to polish the beginning, so I can *finally* send my manuscript to the agent who requested it. (In June. She did say I shouldn’t rush my revision.) Life has interfered – in many good ways – and I don’t seem to be able to cross that slough.
But is it the Slough? Or is it simply a slog? One of those times where writing a novel feels less like a race – even a marathon – and more like a forced march? Slough or slog – I’m back in my chair. And though life is definitely getting the best of my schedule, I can still brainstorm. Still allow my imagination to take flight. And allow my daughter to act as Help, and pull me from the Slough with her questions and ideas on our walks home from school.