For those of you who don’t already know, the purpose of this blog is mostly to chronicle my journey as a first-time book author. The nonfiction book I’m currently working on (currently sharing the same working title as the blog) is something that’s been cooking on the backburner of my mind ever since Napster first hit the scene. To put it bluntly, as a musician and fan, I couldn’t help but notice how the music industry was ruining music for profit.
Ten years and hundreds of pages of notes later, I now have a unique opportunity to take a sabbatical from my regular full-time job as a producer of websites and other creative media. I am using that time not only write my magnum opus, but to engage in entrepreneurship related to blending creative technology with my deep knowledge of the dynamic between music industry, musicians and listeners.
Now two weeks into the process, I’m sure I’m not the first to remark that writing a book has been, above all, a humbling experience. I kept writing the perfect outline, only to wake up the next day and write a more perfect outline. Even worse, as the outlines evolved, the stack of research questions that needed hard-sourced answers grew and grew. Dipping a toe into research was alarming (and eye-opening), with so many contradictory figures and findings from supposedly reputable sources. Yes, writing nonfiction was hard — and I hadn’t even written much yet.
Somehow though, all these fast-accruing research tasks and content refinements snowballed recently into a big breakthrough in terms of structure. For the first time, I feel like I have laid the foundation and erected the scaffolding of what will be the final book. Up until now, I was thinking of the book as building an argument, because what I am writing about is going to primarily challenge many deeply-entrenched views of music and the industry, some of which are taken for granted.
However, when I really thought about it, I realized I should draw inspiration from the books I most loved to read, and a couple in particular came to mind. Both Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to Present — very different books on disparate topics — had the same general narrative structure. There was an overlying chronological progression, but at the same time, three primary topical narratives weaved their way through each chapter of the book. Often, a chapter would have a dominant topic, but the aim of the larger narrative was to illustrate the interplay between the three topics in the title.
My eureka moment was in realizing this is exactly how I should present my book. One of my foremost goals with the book is to provide a new understanding of the interplay between musicians, listeners and the industry. By threading these topical narratives chronologically through history, through the present and into the future, I would have a content structure that is proven and fits my communication goals like a glove.
Now my studio walls are beginning to look a lot like a scene out of a police detective TV series, with timelines stretching across walls dotted with key events, running along separate tracks which represent the narrative of the primary themes. I recently began organizing my timeline in Preceden, a pretty awesome web-based “fancy timeline creator”. Stepping back, I see everything starting to take shape, with repeating cycles and unique accents — like a song. It’s all very befitting for a book on music.