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New book starting … Now!

I’m uncomfortable blogging this, but, what the heck.

I officially started writing a book today. It’s called “Too Big to Know” (with a subtitle to be determined). It’ll be published by Basic Books. My manuscript is due on Sept. 30, 2010.

“Officially started” means that I rolled a new piece of paper into my word processor — with the subsidiary decision to use Pages as my word processor — and created a folder called “Chapt 1.” Quite a ceremony.

I’m not yet sure how much of the writing I’m willing to do in public. I wrote Small Pieces Loosely Joined that way, but I enjoyed writing Everything Is Miscellaneous with the door closed, so to speak.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about the book. In part, it’s embarrassment at the audacity of thinking I can write a book on some topic, as if I knew something. (Hint: I don’t.) In part, it’s superstition — talk about what you’re going to write, and the magic writing beans won’t sprout. In part, it’s because for me writing, at the most basic level of sawing planks and planing edges, goes best with nothing distracting me from the day’s stretch of emptiness.

12 Responses to “New book starting … Now!”

  1. Before committing to Pages, you might take a look at Scrivener- I have been playing with it lately and am very impressed. The idea is that it isn’t just for laying out text but for guiding your whole writing process. (Of course you’ve already got a writing process so you might not need it :)

  2. Good luck with the new book, David. At least you know what you’re in for. You’ve already written more than i ever will, but I had very different experiences with my two books. The first one was on a topic about which I knew as much as anyone, so I didn’t need a lot of help. The second book was on a topic about which I initially knew nothing, so I recruited a lot of real experts to serve as reviewers. They ended up contributing so much that they almost wrote the book. Needless to say, the second book turned out much better than the first.

  3. I both envy you that you can write a book (I have once failed at it) and don’t envy you because I know how hard it can be.

  4. best of luck from italy!

  5. I guess pico della mirandola will find his way into the book
    looking forward for the discussions that in a way or another you are goin to generate while writing it
    it will be fun as always

  6. I too am trying to write a fiction novel and have fallen into the blank page stare. Good luck on your novel. I am thinking about blogging parts of my book to get more ideas from out there. Is this a good idea?

  7. David – Congratulations on the beginning of your book. Without audacity no books could ever be written. I think that one begins to write in order to know something, not necessarily because one already knows something. By the time the book has been written, something has become known for the writer and this discovered knowing is given as a gift to the reader. Through the process of reading and writing we discover what can be known. I know that in my own writing, I discover many ideas I never even considered before I began placing words on paper.

    The public part of my writing is the list of consulted sources that I am reading as I write. My conversation is one of intimacy and depth with other writers who have thought extensively about similar questions. I worry that too much public exposure of my ideas may lead to someone else writing the book that I had planned upon writing. Yet responding to posts on your blog has helped me to clarify my ideas for myself, most notably when I might disagree with other eloquently explicated points of view.

    The reading of a book is a sacred activity where there is an intimate overlap of two isolated consciousnesses. The irony proceeds from the fact that there is almost an inverse ratio: the greater the isolation of the writer, the greater the ability to touch the consciousness of the reader. When I hold a book in my hands I am embracing the innermost truths of another consciousness. As I write, I test out my own ideas in the margins of other books that I am reading.

    Feedback on what you have written in isolation, however, is invaluable and is best left to one or a few very trusted readers. Blind praise or misunderstood criticism does not invigorate the process of writing.

    One of my former students published his first novel with Alfred Knopf. When I called him on the phone to congratulate him he said “Anyone can write a book; It’s the actual sitting down and doing it that is the tough part.” I think that this process most profitably occurs during the “day’s stretch of emptiness” when you are alone filling the emptiness of the page with your writing.

    I congratulate you on the ritual of beginning the book. As I begin my own process of writing a book I find I have no interest in securing a commitment with a deadline. I also find that I wish less and less to discuss my ideas with others. I am now more interested in those vast “stretches of emptiness” which I never had during the years of my professional working life. I too feel as if I know some things, yet I believe I will know much more after the writing of the book.

    I am also uncomfortable writing about my project. When people ask me what I am now doing, I feel a bit disingenuous answering that I am “a writer”. When I retired from teaching last year, I had intended to complete a novel I had begun at Bread Loaf in 2000. In the past year, another book has asked me to become its author. I have no specific professional expertise on my topic, yet I feel that every book I have read, every thought I have had, and every experience I have had have been my preparation to write this book.

    My book is entitled: “The Belief in Certainty” – Art, Metaphor and the Evolution of Human Consciousness. Your ritual has helped me with my own. Thank you!

  8. Self-deprecation becomes you, David, because your whole being is so filled with love. I shall look forward to reading your new book come Christmas next.

  9. First, thanks for all the good wishes.

    Luis, I have tried Scrivener. I like many things about it, but it would require switching my own carefully constructed hodgepodge of practices for its beautifully designed and integrated hodgepodge. I’m using Pages primarily because — like Scrivener — its writing surface is aesthetically appealing to me. That’s why I’m not using OpenOffice (which I use for much writing) or Google Docs.

    Lisa, good luck with your novel. (My book will be non-fiction, at least I hope so.) I have found it very helpful to post ideas and what turn out to be passages. It’s worth a try, anyway.

    Raymond, good luck with your book, too. Your title actually could be my subtitle, although your subtitle makes it clear that there probably won’t be much overlap. And, yes, for me much of writing a book is simply the discipline to write a chunk every freaking day.

  10. dear David– it’s comforting to know that someone as brilliant and productive as you still struggles with writing angst. Your book is sure to be as entertaining and original as you are–Evelyn

  11. How is the new book going?? My New Years Resolution is to keep writing everyday until finished. How about you??

  12. Lisa, yup, I’m not short on discipline (or, more accurately, a slight case of obsessive-compulsive disorder). So, I put in my time every day. Whether or not I’m making progress is a different question.

    Good luck with your project.


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