I handed in the first draft of my new book to my editor at Scribner yesterday, after a three-month stretch of writing almost every day. So I'm feeling pretty good about things, albeit a little guilty for neglecting the blog over this past month. I've written this one in a slightly new way: charging through the chapters without doing a lot of re-reading and editing in mid-stream. When I finished a chapter, I wouldn't go back to re-read it -- I'd just load up the next one and plunge in. In the end, this enabled me to read the book with relatively fresh eyes when I finally printed the whole thing out this past weekend. Normally, you've read everything so many times by that point that it all seems either 1) incredibly dull and obvious, or 2) absolutely perfect, every word in the right place. Neither observation is helpful at that stage.
One of the great things about writing books is that the process spits out all these fun milestones, particularly at this stage: first print-out, submission of the manuscript, the index preparation, first galleys, publication, reviews, etc. I've had a tremendous amount of fun in my engagements with magazine journalism, web publishing, blogs, etc -- but I'm definitely at my happiest putting a book together. There's nothing quite like it.
With the first draft in, I'm now able to think about how the book should intersect with this site. There's still another month or two at least of serious editing and additions, so I'm very much looking for feedback at this stage. But publishing an entire draft here seems like overkill, and not really what blogs are for. (Plus I suspect my publishers wouldn't be so happy about it either.) What do you think? I'm open to suggestions. One thought I had was to say that I'd be happy to send a PDF version to folks who were really keen to read it, if they promised to give me some comments, and to buy a few copies for their friends when it came out...
As I've hinted a few times here, the book is about what brain science can teach you about yourself as an individual -- in other words, not how the brain evolved, or how the brain works in the abstract, but how your brain works. In some ways it's similar in tone to Emergence: popular science writing, with interesting little anecdotes on almost every page, and conversations with some fascinating researchers. But it's also a bit more first-person than Emergence. I personally take a number of tests, and scan my head with a number of different technologies, from neurofeedback to fMRI. I also talk a little about the way understanding something about the brain's inner reality has changed the way I approached various events in my life. The general idea is that modern brain science can be understood as an extension of what the great chroniclers of mental life -- novelists like James, or Woolf, or Joyce -- did in a literary form: helping you see your faculties of mind with a newfound clarity. Hopefully, the end result will be entertainingly self-reflective, and not annoyingly self-obsessed, but you can be the judge of that!