Around about 2005, six years ago if you are not good at math, we began a process of writing a book. This was not intended to be our only book, merely our first, but from this perspective of it being not-yet published, well, it is looking rather lonely.
In a nutshell, the process so far has been something like this: there, in a flash, was an idea (that’s the easy and cheap part). Admittedly, it was an ambitious project from the get-go, every aspect time-consuming, but we are not talking Tolstoy here. This is non-fiction and does not require a life’s perspective or commitment. We had a fondness for city architecture, mostly uniquely designed houses (since we live in a city that actually has houses) that spoke to us in a meaningful way because they were fashioned with personality, verve even. The first months of the project required a lot of looking. Then there was the weeding – of choices and of thinking. More looking, more weeding, rethinking. Followed by months spent in records rooms, gleaning information about the properties. Databases were built. Photographic shoots were done in various excursions, mostly in seasons where the houses were visible through trees, but not too bare looking. Two different cameras were used, no special lighting except how luck found it. We walked and stared and took notes about what we were seeing.
Then the actual writing. More weeding. How to organize? Categorizing and grouping based on our impressions – this is a book of impressions as well as facts. A layout was needed, a page design for the generated text and images to do justice to a very thoroughly considered idea and execution. More months of design work, inside and for the cover. Quark and Photoshop became our best friends, fonts were selected. When it reached a presentable stage, we offered it to a large university press, one whose interests tend toward urban topics. They liked it, we were thrilled, we felt the investment was worth it on every level. We had many emails to and fro with the editor in charge; this person, who had encouraged us, then kept our book as a hostage for two years. After those two years, he turned it down.
Devastation was an understatement. Disappointment colored our efforts. It wasn’t that we were not familiar with rejection, but like a bad relationship gone south suddenly and unexpectedly (always because it is the other person’s fault, of course), we were set adrift. Gathering our wits and strength, we sent it to other potential publishers. Naturally, the university press had held onto it until just about the time that the economy had tanked, thank you very much. The rejection continued and not a few publishers said (and this is hard to write), “if only you had submitted this a couple of years ago, it would have been a go.” Damn that university press twice now.
We sat frozen for a time on this project and moved forward with other things that we had put aside for our commitment to this, our lifelong project. In 2010, we decided that we had put so much into it that we had to finish what we started. Out we went again, this time revisiting the properties to see if they had altered during the lapse of time, or if our feelings about them had diminished. We added some things new, removed a few that had been renovated out of recognition and interest, found some additional information about a few places in the new technology-ized city databases and on websites that weren’t available in the first go-round. We rewrote, reshot, reconfigured, redesigned. We are going to have it printed ourselves. Why? Because we like it. And we still, six years later, think it is worthwhile to put out there. How many things can you say that about in this everything-is-replaceable world?
So, all of this preamble is to talk about the placeness of process and problem-solving. Of having an idea, acting on it and seeing it come to fruition, no matter the hurdles. It is finding resourcefulness and determination in yourself and your ideas, making them develop when they are worthy of pursuit. It is a place of self that wants to share with others: show and tell – it seemed like a great idea in grade school and it still is now. It is the creative urge and the not giving up that makes things possible. Maybe it won’t be the best book out there but it will be the only one exactly like it. Unless, of course, the university press has come up with their own version of our book that they claimed not to want to publish. Then we will be discussing the placeness of lawsuits.
Our discoveries of placeness can often be external but they are always put through an internal filter, the great determiner of placeness. But here we are, faced with finding placeness within ourselves, the placeness that moves us forward in a process of creativity: at first it is a dream, then the struggle happens, now, soon, it becomes a reality. The book.