I’ve got this mountain I have to climb. I stare up, but I can’t make out the top. It’s too damn far away. It’s above the eagles, and it’s above the clouds. As far as I’m concerned, it could be above the heavens and the moon and the sun, as well. People make it to the top – plenty of people, in fact – but from this view, it’s hard to see how. At the bottom, it’s safe and easy. At the bottom, the research never gets done. The interviews are unheard. The words are never typed, never read. The bottom is easy. The bottom is boring.
Once, I made it to the top of a mountain – a structure that stood 120,000 words tall. You think 120,000 words is a bear to write, and you’d be correct. One hundred and twenty thousand words is almost unfathomable.
You might think about it this way: well, I just need to write 1,000 words a day – that’s about two pages or so on Word – and I accomplish that for four months straight, presto! You’ve got a book. One thousand words a day isn’t really that much. Not really. It actually sounds fairly moderate.
It’s not that easy. It’s not that easy to digest. You could write 1,000 words, but it might be crap. You might have to hit “select all” and flick the delete button. Then, what have you got for your day’s work? You’ve got a blank screen.
In fact, you might not get close to 1,000 words, because you’re swimming in so much research that you might as well be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Not only do you not see land from where you’re desperately trying to tread water, but you can’t even fathom that there’s such a place. When you’re swimming that deep in research, 1,000 words might take you eight hours to write. If you’ve got another job, you can’t spend four months straight writing 1,000 words a day. If you’ve got twins, a wife who works and a hectic life, you can forget it. I might as well be Sir Edmund Hillary with two broken legs and a bad case of apathy.
Yes, I’ve done it once before. I’ve done it when I didn’t have kids. I’ve done it when I was freelancing and didn’t have steady hours of work. I’ve done it when Sunday mornings were clear for coffee and Caps lock. I’ve done it when I could spend the afternoon in a coffee shop letting jittery fingers roam all day.
The finished product was a book I’m proud to have written – Bearcats Rising. It didn’t sell as well as I thought it might. It didn’t make me as much money as I would have liked. But that’s OK. It was an experience, and that experience led me to the top of a mountain. I could plant my flag and breathe in the scenery. But by the time I got to the bottom, I wanted to start trekking back up again.
And now I stand at the bottom, and I have no idea how to get back to the top.
OK, so I’m writing another book. I don’t have a title yet. Hell, I don’t even have a signed contract yet (that’s why I can’t tell you what it’s about). I’ve talked to, like, three people for the book but didn’t really interview any of them. I haven’t done any research. But I’ve been thinking about the subject all week, and I don’t know where to start.
“Why don’t you start where you started for ‘Bearcats Rising?'”
Because I started where I started, and it turned out, I was wrong to have started there. In fact, where I started, I probably shouldn’t even have included in the book. If that makes any sense at all.
The first time I started, I didn’t have a table of contents per se. I didn’t know how the chapters would fit together. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Now, I have that table of contents, but that’s about it. It will change, because … well, it just will. I’ll learn countless new facts and anecdotes that I’ll need to find a place for in the book. Adjustments will have to be made. Chapters will be moved in, moved out, thrown over there and pulled back over here.
I have so much research to do, and I don’t know where to start. I know I need to organize, but I don’t know what it is that I have to organize.
It almost feels like I’ve never written a book, like I never planted my flag at the summit once before.
And now? Well, now, I have to start. I have to take that first step. The mountain is immense, and I can’t see the top. But I won’t get there unless I get moving. I’ll never reach the sun (or wherever it is that the mountain ends) if I don’t put on my SPF 45 and start walking.
And so, I do.