Sermon Six: Draft One

A month after the previous progress report, there is already surprisingly much new progress to report. Sermon number six, “Our Maps and Territory”, has become an unfinished, but structurally complete, first draft. So now we’re in the sixth polishing stage. Trembling with nervousness, I will now solicit feedback and suggestions for improvements from a very few select friends, go over each stanza many times to make each as good as I can, add a few details still missing from the narrative, and swap out or cut the weakest bits.

Usually I write about 120 stanzas and cut out a third to get to the final count of strictly 80. I’m pretty sure I have already removed around 40 stanzas from this one, and the count still stands at 82. I already know I have to add at least one section with around three stanzas, even before I address omissions that will be pointed out by my beta test readers. They often demand additions of new sections, and I usually agree to one or two of these demands. Making those additions will of course take me further past the 80 stanza limit. So I expect cutting will be hard.

On the other hand, this stage continues to be the most pleasant one in the writing of a sermon. I might enjoy prolonging this, especially while “the scary part” for the seventh sermon (my answer to the Hard Problem of Consciousness) isn’t even written in prose yet. From experience, the best method to cut a stanza is to merge into one the best bits of two stanzas. This is the most effortful way to do it and takes the most time, but I do have some time and I know I’m usually especially satisfied with the result of this method.

Even accounting for that, right now it seems not unthinkable that this sermon might be finished before the year is. That is breakneck pace by my standards, not even half a year since publishing the previous one. Apparently there is something to the cliché that the best time to make art is when you’re very sad and very lonely.

But also many of these stanzas are several years old, some more than a decade, which looks like a huge head start if I define August 2023 as the starting point. So maybe I shouldn’t, so in a way this is by far my slowest, rather than by far my fastest, sermon writing.

This is also true because much of the ten years I spent in postgraduate academic work in psychiatric and psychotherapeutic research is going into this. I feel most of the value of that is in how it helped me refuse to include a number of concepts from the cognitive and brain sciences, because I suspect them to be among the supermajority of such concepts that will not stand the test of time.