Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Project Update: Running to Stand Still

I've recently started a writing group with a few local colleagues (and Northwest History Network members). We're calling ourselves writeordiepdx. We're just starting to get rolling. In reply to one of my colleague's status reports, I wrote the following:
    I am preparing to get married and have a honeymoon next week, from Tuesday through Tuesday. I thought I might have time to work on the book project a bit over this past weekend, before being consumed by wedding prep, but, alas, this was not to be! So, I won't be able to get to the book project until after July 26 -- most likely the weekend of July 30-31.
    I've spent a large amount of time thus far spewing/venting words that will be the essence of my introduction, trying to write myself to clarity regarding precisely what the purpose and thesis of the book is. A couple of weeks ago I finally settled on something that feels good, but I've yet to condense it down to a clear & concise statement. So, with this work done, I need to start writing the actual chapters of the book; this I hope to do beginning the weekend of July 30-31, and then establish a pattern that will enable me to chunk away weekly at the project.
    Here is a condensed version of my book proposal, to give you all an idea about what I think I'm doing:
    Since I got the book contract back in December, I've been trying, with varying degrees of success, to find time to write. I've gotten lost in a few research rabbit holes using the amazing full-text searchable Oregonian database from 1861-1987; I found out a lot more about some key people & events related to the Willamette River pollution issue in the 1920s-1940s. Here's one fun example of the stuff I've found:
    My personality is such that I never feel that I've done quite enough research, so I tend to keep researching and taking copious notes but not yet really writing the book chapters. Also, the topic I'm writing about has been given cursory treatment by a number of authors (some better than others), so I don't want to create yet another standard-narrative treatment of the topic; at the same time, I don't want it to be so detail-laden that a general reader wouldn't be interested. Another factor is that I don't want the book to be either declensionist or triumphal, because the story is neither of those . . . as we historians like to stress, it's more complicated than that!
    Depending on how things go, I may take a few days in August or September to shut out the rest of the world, eschew any semblance of robust personal hygiene, force myself to not distract myself, and see if I can produce more than a few words worth reading.
    So, in a nutshell, after I get back from the honeymoon on the 26th, I'll check-in and commit myself to something. I'll stand in front of you all and say, with deep humility and full self-awareness, "My name is James, and I'm a researchaholic."


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