I’ve started sniffing around new book ideas. Before you get all excited, let me just say that I’m not yet ready to make any declarations. I want the freedom to drop an idea if it doesn’t work. Besides, in my experience, nothing ever feels like a book when it’s beginning. A collection of ideas, a place, a voice, something that won’t leave me alone — that’s how they start. I would prefer it if they dropped down from heaven readymade: pages and chapters, focus and direction, purpose and all of that. But no. Inchoate. That is the word that best describes this phase.
A friend of mine sent me a link to Ira Glass talking about storytelling on YouTube. He says that it takes way longer to find a good story than you might think. At This American Life, they spend most of their week looking for stories and they “kill” at least half of the ones they come up with.
I reassure myself that I’ve been doing a lot of killing over the last few years. Whenever it’s dawned on me that I might actually finish the book I’m working on now, I panic. What next? I’ve ranged all over the map and all over history. Fortunately, I do find myself returning over and over again to the same set of ideas. I checked my journals from a few years ago — and there they are. The same feelings. The same images. The same people. This seems like a good sign.