Notes on style and process of writing The Virtual Book.

This piece has been the hardest to write so far. The seed of the idea came in early 2021. The tentative title: Making the Internet Surf Itself. Then, in the summer, I listened to Herbie Hancock’s memoir and, while on a long plane ride, drafted an outline for the piece on my phone. Despite my efforts, the piece felt near-dead by Christmas time. It read too much like an outline, or a list of ideas. I was tempted to avert my gaze and scurry away.

The passing of time was discouraging, but also fuelling. I accumulated more references and examples. Reading Gail Sheehy’s memoir and watching Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch introduced me to magazine journalism of the 60s and 70s. I started reading compilations of old articles. I subscribed to the New Yorker. At the same time, I was watching more video essays and Andrew Callaghan’s content on YouTube. All this made the piece more exciting and more challenging to write: Can I weave all these loosely related topics together? Can I incorporate the new ideas with the old ones?

It was daunting and unnerving, but too big to ignore now, over a year in the making. My mental elephant in the room. In the spring of the new year, I decreed Saturday mornings Writing Time. Come summer, I was ready to let it go. It’s been a relief to get it out there, finally clearing the space in my head and my conscience.