I have a very distinctive way of writing books, even though every time I write one, I think it’s the only sensible way to do it. For years I’ve encouraged my students to do it this way when they write their dissertations, and I’ve talked to friends and colleagues about it, subtly (well, sometimes not so subtly) suggesting they do it. And so far, after writing books for over thirty years, I’ve not convinced a single person to do it this way!
I’m sure that’s because everyone has to do it their own way. You really have to be in your own comfort zone when writing a book, you have to feel it’s the best way for you. And that’s because no matter how you do it, it’s really hard. My wife is now working fervently on her next book, a study of Shakespeare’s late tragedies in light of a philosophical tradition (which comes out of a certain reading of Wittgenstein) called Ordinary Language Philosophy, and just about every day she exclaims, “It’s HARD to write a book!!”
So everyone has to do it their own way. It’s true, virtually everyone starts the same way. They figure out basically what the book is going to be about and then they start reading massively, everything of relevance (and usually a lot of things that turn out not to be relevant).
My next step, once the reading is done, is what I’ve tried to convince others of trying, but their minds just don’t …
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