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Time To Begin, Again

By - October 19, 2012

Family, colleagues, and friends knew this day was coming, I knew it was coming, but here it is: I’ve rented a new place to write, a small, remote house directly on the beach, about 12 miles as the crow flies from my home in Marin county. It’s not a direct 12 miles – that crow would have to fly up about 2500 feet so as to clear the peak of Mt. Tamalpais. And that mountainous impediment is intentional – it takes close to the same time to ride a mountain bike from my home to this office as it does to drive one of several winding routes between here and there. I’m hoping that will spur me to take my commute by bicycle. I won’t be here every day, but I certainly hope to spend a fair bit of time here over the coming months.

I’ve added this new address to my long list of offices for one reason: To complete the book I’ve been talking about for nearly half a decade. That book began as an idea I called “The Conversation Economy,” but grew in both scope and ambition to encompass a much larger idea: an archaeology of the future, as seen through the digital artifacts of the present. Along the way, it’s changed a lot – 18 months ago, its title was “What We Hath Wrought.” Now, I’m thinking it’ll be called “If/Then.” I may yet call it “If/Then…Else” – or, as I wander through this journey, it might end up as something entirely different.

At this moment, I’m not certain. And that’s a bit scary.

I’ve made many false starts at this book, and I’ve failed on more than one occasion to truly commit to it. There are many reasons why, but I think the main one is that I believe this project requires that I place it first, ahead of anything else. And until recently, that’s simply been impossible. As readers know, up until this year, I ran the Web 2 Summit, which I put on hiatus this year so I could focus on the book. I’m also founder and Executive Chair of an Internet media startup, now in its seventh year. Federated Media Publishing has undergone many changes since 2005, and doubtless will see many more as it navigates what is an exciting and tumultuous media market. And because I’m a founder, I’ve always placed FMP ahead of anything else – even as I handed over CEO duties to a far more competent executive than myself 18 months ago.

In the past few months, I’ve been getting ready to put the book first, and it’s not an easy thing to do.  Not just because of the rapid evolution in the media business  (for more on that, see my “Death of Display” post), but because committing to a book project is an act of faith – faith that isn’t necessarily going to be rewarded.

Staring at a blank screen, knowing you have things to say, but not being certain how to say them, that’s just hard. I’ve been practicing for nearly a year. It’s time to get in the game.

I’ll still be a very active Chair at FMP, and I’ve got a few more long-planned trips to take, but for the most part, my calendar is cleared, and I’m ready to start. I’ve already spent the past year doing scores of interviews, reporting trips, and research on the book. I’ve got literally thousands of pages of notes and clips and sketches to go through. I’ve got many, many drafts of outlines and just as many questions to answer about where this book might take me. And of course, I’ll be writing out loud, right here, as I wander in the woods. I hope you’ll come along for the trip.

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18 thoughts on “Time To Begin, Again

  1. artsyphotos says:

    I used to to see your twitter posts with #WWHW and I kept thinking of it as “What Would Happen When” and that didn’t quite make any sense to me. I remember you were looking to hire someone to help with your book project, is this the same book?

    Considering you are an established author, are you going to go the Publisher route (i.e. sign up with a Publisher and usual shpeel) or would you consider the self-authored route as well like via Kindle/iAuthor?

    I enjoy reading your blog posts, thoughtful and insightful….looking forward to the book. Goodluck!

    • johnbattelle says:

      I have a traditional, very patient publisher – Simon & Schuster. Thanks for the encouraging words!

  2. datron says:

    Thanks for the invitation to the trip. Hope you get some part out into circulation and start feeling you are more on your way towards completion. It seems evident that you have a sizable audience ready to share and engage and think along the path you take them.

  3. Wish you good luck, admire your commitment. In my experience, some ideas just need the right amount of percolation time before they’re ready to “serve.” It’s frustrating when the percolation process doesn’t fit your schedule (or your publisher’s!), but I’m confident it CAN be trusted. I had an experience like that, recently, myself. Worth the wait!

  4. Jim says:

    Good luck to you John. Always fun to step into the “not knowing” space! Thanks for sharing bits of the ride.

  5. Gillybru says:

    Good luck, John! I look forward to following your journey.

  6. george says:

    A quote I often in enjoy, “There are no speed limits on the road to excellence.” Look forward to reading your next book, even if it takes awhile…

  7. I’ve enjoyed watching this develop – thanks for inviting us along for the ride.

  8. good luck and I look forward to you blogging about your ‘journey’. I find the topics relating to the ‘conversation economy’ to be really interesting!!

  9. Best of luck.Thanks for sharing this post with us.Keep it up in future too.

  10. joey89924 says:

    I’ve enjoyed watching this develop,
    thanks for inviting us along for the ride.
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