The emails have slowed from a steady stream to a trickle from readers wanting to know what in the world happened to my list of favorite books of 2009. I take that as a sign that you already know what I am about to say: There will be no list. I did not forget, honest I didn’t. Time slipped away. [Christianity.com did ask for my list of favorite books of the decade (2000–2009) and I’ll let you know when they post it (but expect no surprises).]
I did read books in 2009. Without counting I would guess that I finished twofold the number of books last year than any other single year of my life. For a bibliomaniac it was a hallowed year.
If 2009 goes down as the year of reading 2010 will go down in my life as the year of writing. I am now under contract with Crossway to write a book of my own and have until November before I am guilty of breaching that contract. It is an honor to work with Crossway. For years I have haply photographed and promoted what they publish. Being a contracted author is a great honor. Author; that word seems so out-of-place and foreign; it reminds me of the stun I felt at the word father when my firstborn was still enclosed in the womb.
To date the project has progressed nicely. Being stuck in a blizzard over the Christmas break provided me the final 15 hours I needed to finish the book’s outline and since the beginning of January I’ve been writing the first draft. This morning I finished chapter 3, well finished what Anne Lamott calls the sh[odd]y first draft. Another 22 of those remain. I figure my book will call for about 1,000 hours of labor.
Labor is the word. The labor of writing is articulated well in William Butler Yeats’ poem “Adam’s Curse.” The poem is especially dear to me because my wife is my primary editor. Yeats and his love sit together to edit one isolated line of poetry for hours. “Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.” He says that to work at editing words is at least as laborious as the work of scrubbing concrete or breaking stones in a quarry. As a former carpenter I can say that the mental labor of writing and rewriting (and then pulling the stitches, deleting what you’ve written, and starting all over) trumps the toil of hauling concrete blocks and pounding framing nails into the skeleton of a second story overhang. I’ve done both. Writing is the harder of the two. But writing is also the most magnificent.
So what is my subject matter? I can’t divulge that yet (insert deflating tire hiss noise). In the months ahead I plan to reveal more about the book.
Back to the shadows and to that splendid labor.