The last two days have been astonishingly productive on the book proposal: I have completed the rough draft of the proposal, including the table of contents, and am working on the first of two sample chapters. I’ve written over three thousand words in the last two days, and while things are still rough, they’re shaping up nicely.
For me, the hardest part is always writing the initial draft. Annie Dillard put it nicely in The Writing Life:
…writing a first draft requires from the writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce. If you were a Zulu warrior banging on your shield with your spear for a couple of hours along with a hundred other Zulu warriors, you might be able to prepare yourself to write. If you were an Aztec maiden who knew months in advance that on a certain morning the priests were going to throw you in a hot volcano, and if you spent those months undergoing a series of purification rituals and drinking dubious liquids, you might, when the time came, be ready to write. But how, if you are neither Zulu warrior nor Aztec maiden, do you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning?
The trouble with a rough draft, for me, is that the framework and rhythm of the piece hasn’t been established yet. As a result, I don’t have a mental model of what should go where, which makes it difficult to let the words flow. Blog posts are easy because they are essentially pouring out my thoughts; a full chapter requires more discipline, a thesis, some organization – much more complicated and difficult. It requires a clear and untroubled mind that can focus on the problem at hand.
So yesterday I was on a roll; today I’m blocked again. I may have to resort to one of my usual tricks – reading and rereading what I’ve written already until a new thought springs to mind, then quickly capturing it before it vanishes. Do that enough times, and suddenly you’re writing again. It doesn’t always work – but that’s true for most things.
On the whole, though, I’m pleased with my progress. I’m hoping to have a rough draft of everything, including the two sample chapters, by the end of next weekend.