We call the thing I’m working on now “the second book,” because it is the prospective book project that follows one’s first published monograph. But because that first published monograph, at least in my discipline, almost always grows out of one’s doctoral dissertation, it didn’t ever begin as a book project—it morphed into a book after beginning, and stalling, and racing and stuttering and veering this way and that until finally settling, under extraordinary institutional duress, as a dissertation. A finished dissertation, I tell my graduate students, is not a finished thing at all; it is a first draft of or maybe even a long proposal for a book.
So I’ve published a book, but I’ve never started a book.
I’m beginning work, for the first time, then, on a book. And one thing I am finding is that I have developed too many ways of taking notes. So part of beginning this project is settling and systematizing the way I collect information. But the beginning of this part of beginning seems to involve expanding the way I collect information and seeing which ways stick—hence the three Moleskines of various sizes, two devices displaying Evernote, and various archiving and blogging apps/windows open on my computer all in front of me right now.
I found this note in Evernote, from Oct. 16, 2013:
Something that has the substance to be vulnerable, in the ways that things that *are* are vulnerable, and lacks the cultural integrity to counter the vulnerability of sheer existence.
I vaguely remember having this thought or something like it while waiting for the bus home. The note is tucked into a virtual notebook titled “Essay: Walpole,” which is itself tucked into a virtual pile titled “In progress.” It is surrounded by web clippings of still lifes involving dead animals and ornamental objects made of organic materials. That’s all I “know” about it.
It is a marvel books get written at all.