I was on the receiving end of some helpful and encouraging counsel from Mike Gecan as I launched into the writing of my first book. "Write what you know." "Tell a story." Above all, "Write!" Those wise words taken together became my north star.
This web/blog journal is something else again. The admonitions still apply, but because there's no permanency in this format I can be more experimental, try some shit out - a bit like community organizing in a new context. Sure, there are habits and practices associated with organizing work just like there are with literary endeavours, but common to both is the requirement of invention.
The way to break out of an organizing rut is to move somewhere else and try to create something fresh. For me, when I retired from organizing, that breakout was a plunge into a book length project. It was a new and somewhat scary place because I had never done it before and wasn't sure I could pull if off. It was risky - like starting from scratch in Las Vegas - because my own sense of self was at risk, along with the success or failure of the venture itself.
There were breakthroughs along the way. One was triggered during my struggle to figure out a frame for the book as a whole. Mike jumped in with the suggestion of a sharpened tension between my two grandfathers (one familial, the other political). Another was inclusion of IAF's statewide organizing in Arizona, which mysteriously I had overlooked (credit Linda Victoria with calling me to account on this). A third was going stream-of-action-as-it-happened in the two Las Vegas chapters. Greg highlighted the shift at first as a negative, then resolved it with a tight reframe before moving the reader to the LV chapters themselves.
Then there was the problem of how to end it. My first idea was to attempt a fairly abstract grand summation. You know, the kind that tops off a lot of academic texts and explains and integrates everything. I wasn't happy with that because I figured the reader would find it tedious (as I did just thinking about it). Academic books on organizing drive me crazy with all the blah, blah, blah boiled down into grand summations of importance as if the reader didn't get it the first couple of times around. So fuck that. Greg must have read my mind. Out of the blue he says, "How about moving the bus blockade chapter to the end?"
When I agreed he opined, "That's why I get the big bucks." (Yes, he deserves them, skimming from the huge sales haul from books like mine.)
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