I freely admit it: my writing is on sabbatical. Moving to another state, starting a new job, simply adjusting to all the life changes has been challenging.
However, I've come to realize that this "down time" is actually a blessing. I've learned that I don't know everything I don't know!
One reason I write historical fiction is that learning about history fascinates me. I spent hours reading and learning about frontier medicine in order to write about it in Bethy. I'm getting chummy with horses to understand how they think and behave. How did Native Americans and white settlers live on the high plains? Every detail interests me.
I attended the 1868 Treaty anniversary activities at Fort Laramie last spring. I was there as a friend of the Sicangu Lakota. For two days, I listened to elders from various tribes speak about historical wrongs and contemporary crises. I participated in reconciliation walks and prayer ceremonies. I witnessed patriotic pride, righteous anger, and children stretched between two cultures.
I've spent time in, and become a member of, The Brinton Museum. What a treasure nestled in the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains! I can spend hours simply looking at the beadwork on the Native American clothing that is on display.
During this sabbatical season, I have read books on Native American culture and perspective, followed Facebook posts from Native Americans with a wide array of opinions, and I have to admit it has been eye-opening just how narrow my own perspective has been. I thought I was empathic. I thought I understood so much of the history, but I didn't. I still don't. I may never understand.
My despair over stolen lands, broken treaties, and the racism that still exists is deep. Yet I can't decide whether this white woman shedding light on the historical wrongs will help anything in the present. Part of me says, "Yes, keep writing. The world needs to know!" Part of me says, "Choose a different topic. You don't know. You'll never get it right."
Realistically, my writing sabbatical will continue until June. I have six months to decide whether to continue researching and writing about fictional characters in very real American West situations, or whether I will turn a page and write about something entirely different.
(Okay, I promise to finish Lukas's story...and maybe the finale book in the High Plains Heroes series. After that, who knows?)
I never know what the future holds.