I can now explain how I actually go about writing a trade book (how I do it with a scholarly book is a bit different, mainly because it is a much slower and laborious process). As I’ve indicated, before I start writing at *all*, I have already read everything that I have needed to read (nothing still left! Otherwise it’s a disaster), taken notes on everything, reviewed my notes assiduously, and made detailed and lengthy outlines of each chapter. Then I’m ready to go.
The writing of the book itself is the only anxiety-producing, tense, emotionally difficult point of the entire process. I feel no nervousness or anxiety or dread in any of the other stages of the work – only in the writing. Moreover, this is far and away the most intense point of the process, where I completely go into a zone and live in an alternative universe.
Different people have different views of how to write. Some scholars prefer to write slowly, carefully crafting every sentence, being sure that one sentence is right before moving along to the next sentence. That’s not my style. My style is to whip out sentences absolutely as fast as I can and to go at breakneck speed. There are two reasons for this. One is that I hate (it’s actually very much a love-hate thing; but very intense love and very intense hate) the actual writing process itself and want to get it over with absolutely as quickly as possible. The other is related: I find it SO much easier to revise something than to write it in the first place. There is no pressure when revising, no tension, no anxiety at all. The anxiety is entirely in first creating the words and sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters. So I try to get through that as quickly as I can.
So, I should say before making my next point that I do not consider myself particularly gifted as a scholar. I work harder than most scholars, but I’m not as intellectually gifted as lots of others. I do have a couple of unusual gifts though (maybe literally just a couple), and one of them is that I’ve developed the ability to write fast. I can write very fast. I write faster than anyone I know. By a wide margin. It is SUCH a gift and I’m really grateful for it.
I didn’t discover the gift until about ten or twelve years ago. But once I discovered it, I exploited it for all it’s worth.
So here’s the short story. I can write a trade book in….
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