If I live I’m coming back some time, and then we’ll go right on practising law as if nothing had ever happened.

Abraham Lincoln, to William Herndon, his partner of 16 years, before leaving Springfield for the White House, quoted in Goodwin, Team of Rivals (363).

Way to spoil the plot, Abe.

The End.

Have we talked about finishing? Today, I will finish the first draft of my next book (which also happens to be a sequel to my last book). It was about this time last year that I finished my first book—the first piece of long narrative fiction I ever finished. In my entire life of writing. The very first thing that was more than a few thousand words. It was 65k words long, it took me more than a year, and it felt so good.

This one is 27k (at this moment), and it took me 22 days.

There’s a kind of black magic in finishing a book. Even when it’s crap (those particular 65k words will never be published). Especially when it’s crap. Because we all know when something is crap. The difference between writing a book and knitting a sweater is that you can fix a book after it’s done. With the sweater, you should probably stop and go back and fix your mistake before you get too far.

Don’t go back and fix your mistakes while you’re writing. That way lies madness. Push your way to the end. Trust me on this. When you turn back, you get lost on the path. You lose your way. But if you continue to the end, then you can make yourself a map, and the next time through won’t be so hard.

In mid-October, he replied to eleven-year-old Grace Bedell, who had recommended that he grow a beard, “for your face is so thin” and “all the ladies like whiskers.” After lamenting the fact that he had no daughter of his own, he wondered: “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?” Nonetheless, he proceeded to grow beard.

Goodwin, Team of Rivals (324).

All the ladies like whiskers.

Thoreau lived in the age of Manifest Destiny, a popular doctrine that urged Americans to explore and settle their vast country, but he thought this one township was nearly big enough. To his active imagination, Concord was America on a reduced scale: The town had a sandy eastern plain, glaciated hills to the north, a river savanna down south, and western grasslands, part of them called “Texas.” Seen in the proper light, these 26 square miles were an ample slice of Destiny, an inner continent to discover and explore: “The whole world is an America, a New World.”

William Howarth, “Thoreau: A Different Man”, National Geographic March 1981.

This is already a great paragraph about Thoreau and Concord, but there’s something even better in here for Canadians. We learn Manifest Destiny differently than Howarth describes it here. In Canada, we learn it as America’s belief in their divine right not only to explore, but to claim. Not only their country, but their continent. The thing they wanted to claim is the place where I live. You say “Manifest Destiny”; I think “54-40 or Fight”.

I’ve been thinking that I should write more about the places where Canada and America intersect. Because I live twenty minutes from one of those intersections: the border between British Columbia and Washington. I grew up listening to Canadian music, but watching American movies. I speak American English, but write British English. I have an abundance of sushi and nowhere to get good fried chicken.

I read a lot about America, but always as a Canadian. I see through you, in all the ways that scare you. But I also see myself.

They meant to set up a standard maximum for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.

Abraham Lincoln, quoted in Goodwin, Team of Rivals (250).

This is the real American Dream. You don’t get everything you want just because; you get the possibility and potential.

Doctors could not pinpoint the physical origin of the various ailments that conspired to leave Frances a semi-invalid. A brilliant woman, Frances once speculated whether the “various nervous afflictions & morbid habits of thought” that plagued so many women she knew had their origin in the frustrations of an educated woman’s life in the mid-nineteenth century. Among her papers is a draft of an unpublished essay on the plight of woman: “To share in any kind of household work is to demean herself, and she would be thought mad, to run, leap, or engage in active sports.” She was permitted to dance all night in ballrooms, but it “would be deemed unwomanly” and “imprudent” for her to race with her children “on the common, or to search the cliff for flowers.” Reflecting on “the number of invalids that exist among women exempted from Labour,” she suggested that the “want of fitting employment–real purpose in their life” was responsible.

Goodwin, Team of Rivals (193).

Frances Seward was a smart woman. Let’s be grateful her husband is deemed important enough that her papers have been saved by proxy.

The question for debate was whether the first president was perfect, or whether, being human, he was fallible. According to [Henry] Whitney, Lincoln thought there was merit in retaining the notion of a Washington without blemish that they had all been taught as children. “It makes human nature better to believe that one human being was perfect,” Lincoln argued, “that human perfection is possible.”

Goodwin, Team of Rivals (189).

Actually, in the future, “the best man for the job may be a woman.” That’s what the sign over Dr. Anna Fisher’s desk in Houston reads. None of Dr. Fisher’s new astronaut colleagues would bother to disagree. Initially, there was a lot of media attention, and some new space clothing had to be designed. Otherwise, neither Dr. Fisher, fellow physician Rhea Seddon, biochemist Shannon Lucid, electrical engineer Judith Resnik, physicist Sally Ride, geologist Kathryn Sullivan nor five more recently appointed women astronaut candidates have disrupted the previously masculine normalcy of Building Four, the astronaut headquarters at the Johnson Space Center.

I’m convinced that by 1990 people will be going on the shuttle routinely–as on an airplane.

Robert Freitag, an advanced programs planner for NASA, quoted in the March 1981 National Geographic story, “When the Space Shuttle Finally Flies”.