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Friday
Sep172004

It's alive! (the sequel to PNM)

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 17 September 2004

Took a look at the family finances recently and realized I had a choice to make: either I start running whole-hog on consultancy stuff on the side (meaning, outside my rather heavy professorial duties at the Naval War College) or my now family of six needs to return to a simpler life-style.


Choice number one is an easy one to make: I've done well in this sort of side-work in the past and so it would simply be a matter of resurrecting the business I let die to write PNM and promote these past months (to include this time-consuming blog).


What a minute! How many kids do I have now?


Hmm, bad sign.


Anyway, to get back to Barnett Consulting as my after-hours passion would likely mean killing this site, or at least making it a static monument to PNMósort of keep-the-flog-and-kill-the-blog scenario. That would sadden me a bit, because I enjoy the thrill of writing each day, and if you want to be a good writer (which I do), you gotta exercise each and every day.


Choice number 2 sucks, no other way to put it.


So what to do?


My wife turns to me yesterday just before I head out with the kids to school and says, "Maybe you should write the sequel to the book."


A 30-minute phonecon with publisher Neil Nyren at Putnam and Son of PNM lives!


Why the turnaround, you ask? Didn't you recently decry this idea in favor of pushing some form of the "Emily Updates," my decade-old diary/meditation on the strategies of keeping a young family alive and kicking during the firstborn's battle with cancer?


True, but if that baby is going to fly, it will do so in a non-time-sensitive manner. Plus, that baby's pretty much out of my hands anyway, sitting with my personal editor and alter ego, Mark Warren from Esquire. He's got the vision for the book on that one. Me, I already wrote it all down. Plus, as my agent Jennifer points out, there's no need to rush Mark on that effort. It's a tricky beast, that one, so better to give him all the time he might need. Meanwhile, how to amuse myself and pay the bills? Cause I know this weblog shtick ain't gonna do it! I've read all the articles describing how that business model doesn't work, not even for former classmate Andrew Sullivan.


Yes, true.


But I do enjoy writing it, and it does help me process a tremendous amount of material that I would collect and analyze anyway. Frankly, I've been doing it for years. Now, the only difference is, I write the stuff down and have a searchable archive as a result (on the web no less, so I can tap wherever I roam).


Yes, also true.


Plus, the weblog (roughly one million words and counting) is my way of processing a lot of feedback on the book, plus interpret current events vis-‡-vis the book's material, which allows me to extend that material even further, which in turn has generated new slides for the brief.


Meaning, I guess, I'm working extra hours for the government and not getting paid. Yes, wonderful business model, that Internet.


I gotta slow down here. The interior monologue is getting a bit confusing. I know I have a series of good reasons to pursue the book sequel option. Let me just try to write them down simply:



1) Going whole-hog on consulting would be family stressing, and I travel enough for the government giving speeches all over the planet. This father of four (one still a baby) needs to do no more harm to his family than he's already doing. Writing a book can be done from anywhere, as I proved last time. Plus it would add no stress to my already heavy government workload.


2) I don't want to give up the writing life, or the blog. I'm just getting good at both.


3) All this writing on the blog shows I've got a lot to say beyond what I squeezed into PNM. In fact, I'm bursting at the seams to extend the material. While it's nice to crank it out raw every day online, there's no reason why a polished version that's far more coherent wouldn't do well as a book.


4) Plus, all the experiences I've had since writing the book last August and September tell me there's a publicónot to mention a US Government and governments around the worldóhungry for this sort of comprehensive, optimistic-yet-pragmatic vision of a future worth creating (hmm, not a bad title).


5) I know for a fact that there are at least 20 strands I can pull from the book, that I only enunciated there in the most bare, toss-off sort of fashion (e.g., A-to-Z global rule set on processing politically bankrupt states, ten steps toward a future worth creating [hmm, that phrase again . . .]). Each are worth a good 4k each. I sold Putnam the first time on a 70k high-concept book (which later mushroomed into a 140k hybrid of high concept and autobiography), and this time around I won't have to introduce myself so much, so I really could keep it overwhelmingly high concept, simply drilling down on a couple dozen big-picture concepts that I covered only in the most cursory fashion in the sprawling, somewhat over-stuffed PNM.


6) The reaction I get from the brief still is enormous not only within the US Government, but from abroad and from average citizens alikeówitness the flood of emails about the C-SPAN broadcast, and the huge uptick in speaking engagements. That tells me PNM is scratching a market that's bigger than I realize.



Hmmm. That's better. Six nice reasons all lined up.


Aw screw it! Here's the only reason I need: I'm trapped giving this brief in my day job non-stop, and it doesn't look like it's going to end because I wrote PNM on the side. If anything, it's only gotten worse. I can't keep giving the same one-man off-Broadway show for the rest of my career. It's becoming the "little mind killer" from Dune. And the rest of my day job is heading south--intellectually speakingóas I'm being dragged into very prosaic operational issues that bore me to tears (still, the regular paychecks are nice). Simply put, I need to reach beyond PNM's material in order to keep my strategic wits about me in this budget-focused age inside the Defense Department. It's use-it-or-lose-it! Since I don't really have any client inside the government for what I want to think about next, I need to invent my ownóand Son of PNM is it.


Here's the plan: get my head together enough to write and field a proposal by the end of the month. Assuming it's a go with Putnam or somebody else if they pass, then it's three months to plot it all out in my brain (that's almost 100 hot showers, so a big water bill and the danger of splotchy-looking skin, but do-able). Write 80k in January (blog will definitely go lite that month), have Mark and I edit it in February and March, and deliver to Putnam (fingers crossed) around April Fool's for a fall '05 publication date. Since PNM the paperback will be coming out from Berkeley (a Penguin Group company) around that time, it's good scheduling to be heading back to book sellers with news of the PNM sequel.


There. I've written it and posted in my blog. So now I know I'm serious about it!


Now to start talking to the lawyers and various deans at the college. I broke tradition by writing PNM as a bestseller. Time to mend some fences and make some reassurances . . ..


Today I offer yet another review, and if it gets tedious to read these, then simply skip on by.


Whoa dog! I recognize that touchy tone from the Emily Updates! Somebody send you an email complaining?


Well, yes, someone did. This person even had the temerity (a word I've always wanted to use) to tell me I needed to be more "narcissistic" and stop inputting all this stuff "other people" write about PNM. He said he read the blog for my ideas, not other people's stuff.


Wait a tick! You? MORE NARCISSISTIC? Is that even possible?


Yes, I know it sounds incredible, but he actually wrote that.


Are you sure it wasn't me, in yet another example of your raging interior dialogue?


No, he had a different eddress from yours, which, if I recall, is tom@tom.tom?


{almost breathlessly} You had me at tom . . .. {verklempt!}


Anyway, this review is from the journal Air & Space Power Journal, and it's by the Brigadier General-select who's inbound as the next commandant (I've been told, but I can't confirm) of one of the schools located at Air University at Maxwell AFB in Alabama (maybe the Air Command and Staff College?). Following the review (and my commentary), hereís todayís catch:


The Pentagon's new long-term strategy


If only we had waited to invade! Saddam really wanted WMD, after all!


DHS: The Department of Agriculture for the Twenty-First Century!


A more optimistic view on Indonesia as a Seam State

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