It took me the better part of two years to write and rewrite my opus on metaphysics and cosmology, “Meaning in the Multiverse: A Guide to Finding the Loving-Kind Cosmos and Your Place In It.” In those two years and in the two years prior where I was researching the material, I learned a great deal about organizing thoughts into themes, researching, and the best process to encourage my writing. Now as “Meaning in the Multiverse” is moving into the marketing phase, I am writing this meta-postmortem to rest one last time in the creative and currating process, describe my struggles in editing, and eek out any answers for my next effort.
Meaning in the Multiverse started as the first of a trilogy of books on business vision, strategy, and tactics. I was quickly disabused of the idea that there was much to business vision that was not already stated in Simon Sinek’s excellent “Starting With Why,” so I started researching personal meaning for a self-help trilogy again on vision, strategy, and tactics.
As would be the case throughout my research, I was reading the right book at the right time. In this case, it was the book, “Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix Trilogy,” that cued me to process-relational ontologies like Taoism and those later articulated by the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. Processes and computation could be optimized, an optimization routine running across the universe suggested meaning that was neither personal nor supernatural, and I had my eureka moment that a computational universe might hold the key to all-natural universal meaning.
I knew I had the makings of a book I wanted to research and write.
Inspiration is fickle. Have an idea, but be willing to morph and manipulate it. Read a lot and deeply into those things that excite you and inspiration will come.
I have always read physics and philosophy so doubling my efforts here was a joy. I also currate non-fiction from all sources: books, ebooks, magazines, and online, so there is always something I’ve read somewhere within access and annotated.
I like to chain together my bibliographies: for example I found Whitehead dense but Mesle, one of his protogies, infinitely readable. Sam Harris offers great novel material but also introduces apt and enlightening primary sources like D.E. Harding and David Deutsch. From Deutsch, I picked up Popper, and the list goes on and on.
Having never written a book before, my first drafts had many more quotes than my own ideas. Every thesis was backed with at least one supporting quote. This became an opportunity in editing to keep only the most relevant and stunning quotes.
Research is so much fun, scouring your local used bookstores (and here in Salt Lake City we have an impressive array!), and developing reams of notes that it is hard to know when to say when. My suggestion: it’s time to write once you have supplemented your entire three-layer outline (chapter, subheading, theme) with evidence or spinoff ideas from your research.
Writing is flow, it’s the part I like best. A clever sentence, an engaging thought conveyed in an entertaining way, or a sentence structure that reads better than you wrote it all have the opportunity to leave me–the writer–breathless with the anticipation of more.
But it does require a few hours to work up a fever pace of fetching first-draft writing. I try and work this in before noon on the weekends. You just have to give yourself some time (4–5 hours) at your desk with your books, outline, notes, and most alert mind. Writing is not something that can be done with fragmented time.
Wallace Stegner said that “hard writing makes easy reading.” Editing is extremely hard for me. Once I am passed the rewrite section, where the editing is about making the “argument” or tying the thesis together in the most compelling way, I count on others. I find many of my usage errors but am prone to longer sentences and tricky structures that read alright every time for me, because of course, I know what I’m saying!
If editing is not a natural strength for you (I can say it is a weakness for me!) than you will have to just work at it. The best “trick” for me was reading it aloud and reviewing it audibly.
Overall, writing a book is the best way to truly get your thoughts together on a topic. Researching helps you build your library and collate facts, writing is an artistic effort of pure creation, and editing creates a product optimized for audience enjoyment and information delivery. There are few things I am more proud of or that gave me more joy than writing my book, “Meaning in the Multiverse: A Guide to Finding the Loving-Kind Cosmos and Your Place In It.”