ILLUMINATIONS: Every Day I Write the Book
Where do I go from here?
WHEN I CREATED THIS SUBSTACK newsletter in early May with the idea that I would write two or three missives per week, I did not know that in a matter of just a few weeks I would be signing a contract with Oxford University Press to write a book about George Harrison. (You may recall that he was a member of the 1960s rock group The Beatles, as well as a successful solo artist and enormously influential cultural figure.)
I launched Reflections & Illuminations in some ways precisely because I was not actively working on a book. The idea was to give myself a concrete writing project—sort of like a book—something to tie me to my desk every day, or almost every day, and force me to exercise my creative muscles in the only form I know how: the written word. It was to give my imagination free reign. It was to be an outlet to explore many different ideas and interests above and beyond my regular freelance assignments. Perhaps one or more of these short pieces might wind up being fodder for a longer work: an essay, or possibly a book.
Or perhaps not. Maybe this form of writing would become my primary form; maybe I am just one of many late-career writers who find liberation in being answerable only to oneself and to one’s loyal readers. Maybe it would eventually become a source of income if I demonstrated an ability to produce regular, consistently interesting pieces that would encourage enough readers to opt into a paid, premium option, in which some “content” (I hate that word) would be made available only to paying subscribers. That model is built into the Substack platform; it is assumed that writers will eventually go there. But in the short term, I would focus only on the regularity and consistency of the effort and worry about the rest somewhere down the line – in a half year or a year or so, maybe longer.
As those of you who have kept up with my newsletters from the beginning know, I have fallen short of my initial, ambitious goal of two to three e-mails per week. Some or perhaps many of you are happy about that, as it means fewer emails to deal with. Since Reflections & Illuminations is free, there has been no guilt attached to falling short of my original intention; I merely moved the goalposts to reflect the new reality. (The page explaining what this newsletter is about now indicates that subscribers will receive one or two emails per week.)
But even that was before I made the deal to write the George Harrison book, something I had been thinking about doing for many years and actively pursuing in more recent times. But with the COVID pandemic, changes in the publishing industry, and my life’s own ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, I had reached the point—probably a year ago—where I no longer believed that this was meant to be. I was totally OK with this, having cultivated a very Harrisonian state of equanimity for quite some time.
Thus it was all the more a pleasant—even happy (not a word I am wont to use, especially as applied to myself)—surprise when my conviction that this project would not see liftoff proved to be premature. (This is also a living example of my patented philosophy, The Power of Positive Pessimism, which I do plan to share with readers over the following weeks, months, and years, here on Substack and eventually in book form.)
My situation is now different than it was back in May. For the next 18 months or so, I am researching and writing a book. That is my primary occupation. But that does not mean I am doing it to the exclusion of all else. I pretty much intend to keep doing most of the other things I have been doing regularly. I will still produce the weekly Rogovoy Report digest of news, entertainment, and features (“from around the corner to around the globe”) and my weekly radio segment of the same name previewing the performing arts highlights in the Berkshire and Hudson Valley regions, airing on WAMC Northeast Public Radio on Fridays at 12:55pm. I will still write regularly for The Forward, produce concerts, music festivals, and online events, and deliver multimedia talks and lectures.
And I still plan to continue to produce this newsletter, which is as important to me as just about anything else I do.
But, yeah, I am writing a book, so something or some things will just have to give. I hope those things will be invisible, or at least relatively so. I will have to push myself more and cut back or tighten up on how I use my so-called spare time. (If ever there were an essay waiting to be written, that is the one; stay tuned for a future rant about the notion of “spare time.”) You may not see me tomorrow.
And maybe some of things I write about over the course of the next few years might reflect my immersion in the world of George Harrison. After all, there is a whole book to be written about that.