Adventures in docket space

Over the last few days I have experimented with a method of writing that was new to me. It is very well described in professor Edward Slingerland’s blog post There is Only One Way to Write a Book. In my (new) experience, this method works quite well! So if you plan to do a big complicated piece of writing, it is worth a thorough read.

If not, basically the idea is to put all the notes and ideas you have onto little pieces of paper (I say “dockets” for short), lay them out in a big room, and arrange and re-arrange them into groups and sequences that eventually produce an outline, which you then “only” need to fill out when writing.

This seemed perfect for the current stage of writing the fifth Sermon. As I mentioned before, I had some recent ideas and candidate stanzas, and some old ideas and candidate stanzas that I didn’t even remember, and I needed to synthesize those into an outline. So I set up a “docket space” and spent some of the last few days there.

It basically worked really well. I do have an outline now; there are numerous remaining uncertainties, but they are separated from each other and more or less well-defined. Success!

But this isn’t all about structure, it also helps build substance. Life in docket space made it easier to come up with an original kind of crescendo at the end, and with ways to connect various sections. It helped me throw away a few sub-par ideas and stanzas. And it helped me write quite a few more.

As of the time of writing this, I have 41 completed stanzas. The count is misleading. In the past I have tended to cut out like half of the stanzas written in the beginning, some of the cutting is done already but surely I’ll discard several of these 41. I also have a considerable number of half-finished stanzas. So while I know the finished fifth Sermon will have 80 stanzas (that’s one of the rules), I don’t actually know how many more I’ll write.

I do know now that my previous working title, “The Signal and the Voice”, was a bad idea. The title of a Sermon needs to turn up several times in its text, that’s another one of the rules. And the word “voice” only has two good rhymes, “rejoice” and “choice”, and a few questionable ones like “boys” and “moist”, which is just insufficient. So the new working title is “The Voices that we Raise”.

For the same reason, the working title for the sixth Sermon, “United in the Quest for Truth” is also most likely bad. But I’ll worry about that later; right now my task is to write the fifth one.

I will try another docket space session in the future although the outline, that this method is most suited for, is roughly sketched out at this point. This has been fun and I can easily picture doing several of the next steps in the same kind of environment.

In other news, I have for the first time travelled to Berlin to attend one of the Sunday ceremonies of the Church of Interbeing. It was very beautiful, and this group is highly aligned with what I’m trying to do with the Sermons. I actually met two people there who had already heard them! This is very surprising because so far this project has little publicity, although that should change soon. But clearly, and very reasonably because of the alignment, self-selection for these two projects is highly correlated. So I hope I can do the Sermons at the Church of Interbeing at some point.