Being focused on a new book is a wonderful challenge, when I can actually FOCUS on it

For those of you who don’t know, I’m under contract for my next book. Have been working on it since July-ish (though actually much longer). I’m wrapping up the first draft of chapter eight today, and if all goes well, I’ll have rough skeletons of the next two done by the end of the weekend. I am, so far, remaining on schedule – and I’d better be, since I’m under contract.

It feels good. I just wish that feeling wasn’t so fleeting.

Between my freelance work and social media work and podcasts and Youtube videos and managing a garden too big for my own good and everything else, it’s difficult to be as focused as I should be on this next book.

And I DO need to be focused on it. It’s an important book to me both personally and professionally. Wish I could go into details on what it is, but since my publisher hasn’t announced it yet I can’t either. Suffice to say, it’s a book of film scholarship, and one I’ve been talking about doing for close to ten years now.

Old vintage typewriter, close-up.

 

I finished a first draft of chapter 8 today. The next stretch includes some stuff I’m excited to write about.  So that’s awesome.

When I’m working on it, I’m happy.

It’s been difficult to get truly productive days in, though. The nature of my job plays into that. I’m essentially “on call” all the time, putting out fires for clients and the like. It’s the flip side of my otherwise flexible schedule. That’s not a bad thing, I’m very lucky to work the way I do, but that also doesn’t play nice with the way my attention span and focus work. In addition, the idiotic obligations I’ve taken on for myself also get in the way. I very much enjoy those things, don’t misunderstand me — I love nights when we sit down to record some podcasts or video, for example — but they’re indicative of a tendency I’ve had over the years to get myself in way over my head. In much the same way I always order FAR too much at the diner and can’t finish my plate, no matter how good that French toast with bacon, eggs, toast, and home fries is, at some point I realize I can’t eat anymore. This happens a lot! Among some friends I’ve developed an unearned reputation for being a go-getter always juggling projects and being productive and shit that anyone who knows me knows me realizes is absurd. It’s more accurate to say that I routinely overestimate my time-and-sanity-management skills!

It’s hard enough to battle my own perpetual fight with distraction and procrastination. Throw in those other factors and I often feel overwhelmed by the scope of this project.

This is a legitimately important work for me, more important than anything since my first book.

The existing scholarship on my new subject is far, FAR less thorough than it is with Alfred Hitchcock, the focus of my first book. With Hitchcock, you get lost in a flood of other books. You’re not paving new ground, you’re just adding to a really great existing sidewalk. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s the truth. Plus, I wrote those two Hitchcock books with someone else, my coauthor and good friend, Jim McDevitt. I wasn’t shouldering the full load myself, and Jim came into the project with a wealth of Hitchcock knowledge. That was a true collaboration in every sense of the term.

With this new project, I’m not only writing it alone — not my first rodeo writing solo, for publishers or on my own, but still — I’m also among just a handful to tackle the subject matter. I’m putting in some new sections of sidewalk onto this path. It’s got to be GOOD. And this subject matter generally attracts film aficionados and outright snobs rather than casual-but-smart film fans. One of the purposes of this book is to draw in the latter and make clear this topic isn’t a film snob thing, but I know where the real feedback will come from. The people who read this will be knowledgeable, well viewed, and critical.

It’s got to be good.

It’s got to be really fucking good.

This project is the sort of thing that made me want to switch the nature of my career in the first place. So I could do projects like this without killing myself. Stopped working for The Man three years ago now. I now work for myself. That still amazes me. It’s nice and also interesting. The money is often stressful; the flexibility, not so much. Yet this is why I do it. So I can be A Writer.

And I’m not going to complain about that.

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