Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How I Wrote The World Perceived

I faced a daunting task that late November afternoon when I began work on the book that would become The World Perceived. How does one say what one thinks? I had it all put together in my head, my mind was able to correlate and integrate all of the information I had gathered over the years, but how do I put that on paper for someone to read? My mind can instantaneously search out and put together the concepts I’ve formed, which are an integration of (and hopefully a furthering of) all that I’ve read previously. But the reader of a book can’t remember the concept I read about ten years ago, or how that concept relates to another concept I’d learned about from a book which I’d read before that. If I want someone to know these things I will have to spell them out; literally. Because that’s what writing is.

I had adopted very basic theological and philosophical idea, which I’d formulated over the years, now I needed to put that idea down on paper. I don’t remember now exactly what I began to write, that late November afternoon when the writing officially began, but I do remember beginning to write down my thoughts—about practically everything theological and philosophical—with a pen on a pad of paper. Writing my thoughts about something in particular was not new to me, but writing my thoughts about everything in general, with the goal of somehow organizing these writings into something coherent, like a well written book, was a completely new thing for me. I wasn’t sure how I would do it but I thought I would able to.

I’ve heard it said that the fully accomplished reader is someone who, having enjoyed reading many books over the years, becomes the writer of a book that others can enjoy reading. It’s certainly true that good readers make better writers, and it’s also true that the great books, which have been written over the centuries, make for a great conversation of which we, as the readers, are a part. And it’s up to us to further this conversation by adding our own written contributions to it. I’ve also heard it said that, concerning non-fiction books, one should refrain from writing a book before their fortieth birthday; because one will probably write something that one will later regret. As I was over forty years of age when I began writing The World Perceived, I figured I was on relatively safe ground here.

Basically, how I wrote The Word Perceived can be seen in the outline of the book. The book is broken down into three sections: how we think about the world (chapters one and two), how we perceive the world (chapters two and three), and how we live in the world (chapters four, five and six). This allows the readers to follow my own progression toward the concepts expressed in the book and it also allows the readers to make their own progression toward these concepts. In short, to properly understand the last three chapters of my book (the concepts) one must read the three chapters that precede them (an examination of our presuppositions).

My favorite part of the book The World Perceived is in Chapter Three: the geocentric versus the heliocentric conception of the universe. This, more than anything else, was the inspiration for the book. The Copernican Revolution was the biggest black eye modern science has ever given the Church and the Bible. And the skeptics, atheists, and antitheists are forever reminding Christians of that bruising, which occurred over five hundred years ago, yet the Copernican Revolution also raises a lot of questions concerning perception, which have been overlooked. The Bible says the sun moves across the sky, which it appears to do, but modern science has proven that it doesn’t. But the sun does appear to be moving. So is the Bible wrong in its description of the world? Is modern science correct? Even more importantly, what difference does it make? This one example—the geocentric versus the heliocentric conception of the universe—is probably the best working example of the differences between scientific and religious presuppositions, perceptions, and attitudes toward the world.

Chapter Three of The World Perceived, which is also the longest chapter of the book, contains three practical examples of conflicting religious and scientific views of the world, and illustrates for the readers how our thinking about the world affects our perception of the world; something many people don’t even realize. These examples allow the reader to see—in action—our thinking about the world affecting our perception of the world. For example, the creation versus evolution controversy is really a controversy over presuppositions, not (supposedly neutral) scientific facts.

The theological portion of the book, which was easiest for me to write, is found in the last three chapters. The first three chapters were the most difficult for me to write because I needed to simplify my own intellectual progression toward the concepts I’d formed in such a way that the readers could follow my thinking. This entailed explaining things I’d taken for granted and not really given much thought to actually expressing, but by writing them out I also gained new insights and I was able to understand my own thinking better. After a year of writing The World Perceived in spiral notebooks, I sat down with my new laptop (with the blank screen in Word 2007) and began the book anew, using the spiral notebooks as a very rough draft of the book. This is how the real work of writing and putting together the book began, and it was a lot of work doing so. As I said, writing always entails rewriting, and rewriting’s a lot of work too. But it always pays to rewrite. One’s first draft is always a diamond in the rough no matter how great a writer one might think oneself to be.

After my first year of writing the book on a computer, I printed out a manuscript of the book to read, and it was terrible. After what was now two years of writing, the book seemed almost unreadable to me. Back to work rewriting the book. After another year went by I had produce what I believed to be a publishable manuscript. I had gotten involved with Amazon’s CreateSpace by this point, so I uploaded my book interior and cover files and ordered a proof copy of the book. The proof needed a lot of work, so it was back to rewriting for me. Another proof was ordered, read, corrected, the book completely rewritten and the cover redesigned. Another proof was ordered, read, corrected, and the book rewritten yet again. But I was happy with this version of the book. In fact, much like I knew I had finished writing my very first draft in the spiral notebooks, I knew this was my final rewrite. I had done all I could do: imperfect, but what isn’t? I realigned the book’s cover for the last time, uploaded the files, ordered the proof, approved it, and submitted it to that great conversation, which I spoke of earlier.

In short, how I wrote this book was the hard way. I hope my next book is much easier to write. It should be, but it’ll probably take me ten years to write it. For a writer’s first book, I think The World Perceived is pretty intense, because I’ve put so much work into it. For twenty dollars, I think the readers certainly get their money’s worth out of it. And I never intended to make any money from writing this book either. It was something I had to write and I’m happy if anyone enjoys reading it. That’s the greatest reward of writing. That and being able to influence people’s thinking!
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