I have been having a tough time the past 60 hours. Not really bad, just weird. It’s mostly the result of trying to figure out how to approach the next writing project, Good God. As my first non-fiction effort longer than a college paper, it’s a daunting task. And with five novel ideas queued up behind it, in widely varied states of readiness, there’s a big part of me that wants to just stick with the fiction. Fiction, after all, is fun. And I feel that American Dream On was a profound success, the book that will ultimately, some way or another, probably put me on some sort of map. So why shift gears?
Well for one, it’s due up next. I was trying to explain the other day that the book ideas have been coming at about the pace one might expect them to over the last several years of not writing, despite the fact that I haven’t written the old ideas. American Dream On was the real gorilla on my back, having been a pretty well formed idea since early 2002. But the next few books are old-timers as well, all dating back to at least 2005. Chronologically, Good God is the oldest unwritten book. So it should be up next.
But that’s probably not good enough reason all by itself. There’s also the issue of my trip to India and the religious experience I had there in a boat on the Ganges in Varanasi. Wherein I felt called, more than anything else, to write this book which I have just re-embarked on tonight. And though the book is not the product of literal divine revelation, my life would seem pretty empty without its many religious experiences. I feel impelled – deeply impelled – to write this book.
There’s also probably the matter of hope. I find American Dream On to be an ultimately hopeful book, but I doubt many will agree with me. For the most part, people have found it somewhere between bleak and Kafkaesque… and it is those things, too. Good God, on the other hand, is a legitimately and unequivocally hopeful book, perhaps the only one I will ever write. And it may be the only non-fiction, unless I decide to tackle my theory of dinosaur extinction or the book earns enough refutations to warrant a defense publication. It’s a unique book, even for all the differences I see among the many novel plots I am contemplating. So maybe I want to write it next to prove I can, to show the breadth of my versatility. Em and I were joking a few hours ago about how anyone excited about publishing ADO would be utterly baffled by my description of Good God as the follow-up work.
But as I embark on it, writing 7-8 pages tonight to accompany the paltry 14-page headstart I brought to New Jersey, more questions than answers loom. What sort of tone can one maintain for a largely second-person conversational non-fiction work on God? Is this just going to be too experimental? How do I balance philosophical exploration with straightforward personal appeals? And how do I get the target audience to want to read whatever this looks like?
Tonight, though, I remembered that these questions are pretty thin and unimportant when the process of writing is afoot. I have come up with six book ideas yet unwritten and I have developed them because I believe in them. There will be questions of form and plenty of time to second-guess and to doubt. That time is not amidst the two years I’ve set aside to churn out the ideas full-time, to make good the promise of my inspiration. It’s time to churn, to chunk out the pages and let them do the talking. It might not work.
But it doesn’t matter. I must work and the rest will follow.