A Creative Grind


Last week I didn’t post anything. I was too close to a creative moment, and I was too distracted channeling the creative vision to break out of that and try to describe it to others. Does this make any sense?

Last Wednesday began with journaling. I wound up making a lot of notes. These notes helped me see something within my narrative. Some potential.  After writing those notes, I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  Later that day I tried to post something here on this blog. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the morning’s notes.   The blog had to take a back seat.  By Thursday, I had missed a self-imposed deadline. I decided not to beat myself up about it. I would just move forward. I still had those notes on my mind.  I got back to work and expanded on what I had written the day before.

Those notes then went into the model of the book I am building. In my last post, I mentioned using mind-mapping software to build out models for this book. I have created a number of models over the past few years. Each one getting closer to my vision. As I worked with the current model, began to feel that the moment was at hand. I have been building these models to help me think about what I have said, and what needs to be said, as I write. Without the models I’m writing into a void. I can’t just wing this narrative without some structure.  This is too complicated for a seat-of-the-pants approach.

I need to see all of the talking points and where the statements have to be made within the narrative in order to keep the suspense, while still informing the reader. I began building these models with the conviction that at some point writing the book would become fairly easy.  At some point, with enough development, I anticipated that the model would trigger the narrative with a mere gaze.  Working with the mind-map this week,  I began responding to the model in just this way.  Two days ago I began a new Scrivener project.  I needed a fresh blank slate for this draft. Yesterday I began composing.  Today the opening began to expand.



This week was fortuitous.  While studying the Quran, I found what I was looking for.  Something fell into place for me.  The next day I began writing the latest opening to my book.  For over a year, I have been honing the opening, over and over, circling around a correct thesis, without seeing it.

I could not write a book without a one-sentence summary.  What would I say without a thesis?  Each of the previous openings was built around a sentence that never could get me quite to the end of the book.  These statements couldn’t take my narrative to where I wanted it to go.  This week this changed.  Such a simple thesis, and I could not see it until now.

The day after this realization, I began building out the latest model of my book.  For the past two years, I have been using an application called FreeMind.  It is open-source mind-mapping software.  It works well.  But it is not ideal.  During the past couple of years, I have sketched out quite a few models.  During the past few days, I had been thinking hard on my book.  The morning after, I built the best model yet of the vision that has guided me in this project.

The day after that, I began writing.  My mind maps tend to resemble trees with branches. This is fortunately or not due to the design of the software.  Since I began using FreeMind to help me write, I envisioned the full draft as a process of filling out the leaves on each branch.  That is where I am at right now.  The sled is moving again, and picking up steam.

Progress in Three Paragraphs


When free versions are available, why did I pay good money for this translation of the Quran?  Some of the value is in the English-language translation itself.  But much of the book is commentary from experts on Islam.  I paid for that.  Initially, I made a good faith effort to read the entire book, page by page.  But by the time I made it through the introduction, through the first surah and into the second, I realized that the commentary was bogging me down.  Most of this book consists of commentary.  For now, it distracts me from my purpose.

So I have spent the week reading the Quran, but focusing on Mohammed’s words exclusively.  It is slow but rewarding work.  I take the time to copy passages into my journal so that I can better argue with the ideas themselves.  When I read, I argue.  If I don’t argue, I am not engaged.  The fact that I am arguing much with the Quran means that I am very engaged by what it says.  When I get to the end of the 114th surah, I will have the basis for my for the article I am writing.  I won’t be done.  But I will be on my way.

I want to explain why I cannot embrace Islam.  Idealogical differences motivate me.  More than a quarter century ago, I left the Catholic church.  My reasons for rejecting Christianity were just as valid then as they are now.  But they apply equally well to Islam.  I am convinced more than ever that religion misrepresents God.