A long

time ago Don Passman

told me the simple “secret” for writing books : “Get up and,

before you do anything else, try to write 2 or 3 pages. If you do this

every day, by the end of the year you’ll have a pretty thick book.”

Probably the best advice ever for those who need to get a thesis or book

finished. I’ve managed to live by this rule for several months in a

row (the first half of 2000 leading to version 2 and the winter of 2001-2002

resulting in version 3) and I can recommend it to

anyone in need for some (self)dicipline. It feels just like training,

hard in the beginning but after a couple of weeks you’re addicted.

Also the pitfalls are similar. On certain days you have so much energy

that it is easy to write 10 or more pages (or in the revision process,

to revise 30 or more pages). Don’t do it! Tomorrow you will be

exhausted and you will not be able to do a single page but you will

convince yourself that it is not needed as you did more than enough the

day before. And you’ll feel and say the same thing the day after, and

the next day! and before you realize it you’ll be way behind

schedule. So, rule 1 : do 2 pages mimimun, 3 or 4 if possible but never

more than 5!

Another useful bit of advice comes from

Lewis Caroll’s ‘Through the looking glass’ in which the Red

King says

Start at the beginning, then continue until

you reach the end. Then stop.

Too many bookprojects

never get past the planning stages. It is much more fun to dream up the

perfect book than it is to write the first paragraph. Also, when the

writing on chapter X goes slow, it is tempting to begin with chapter X+1

or any other chapter that seems like more fun, and before you know

you’ll end up with a complete mess (and believe me, I know what I’m

talking about here).

Armed with these two guiding rules I began

the new year writing version pi of my book. (Oh, a marginal note : some

people seem to think that I set up ‘NeverEndingBooks’ to get my

book published. It may surely be the case that I’ll get _a_

book published there, but _the_ book I promised already a long

time ago to the EMS-publishing

house! So, if you have an interesting bookproject for

‘NeverEndingBooks’ please contact us.) Anyway, the writing goes

slow! I’m already far behind schedule. So far I produced just over 20

pages! Part of the problem is that I want the book to be self-contained

and from past experiences with our ‘masterclass non-commutative

geometry’ I know that this means including a lot of elementary

material (it seems that sudents are eager on entering a masterclass on

non-commutative geometry without knowing the basics of either

non-commutative algebra or algebraic geometry). So. I started out with

believe it or not the definition of matrix-multiplication! But the book

has a pretty steap learning curve, by page 3 I’m already using

Grassmannians to classify left ideals in matrix-algebras! But I was

surprised how long it took me to come up with my own proofs of all this

‘trivial’ material. But the main problem is : lack of motivation.

I’m no longer convinced that one has to write technical books to aid

the younger generation. They are already far too technical!Perhaps it

would be far better to write books helping to develop creativity? But

how? And why are there so few of such books around. In fact, I know of

only one book trying to achieve this : An Invitation to General

Algebra and Universal Constructions By George Bergman. His chapter 0

‘about the course and these notes’ comes very close to how I would

like to teach masterclass courses or how I’d love to write books if

only I’d know how. Perhaps, over the next couple of weeks, I’ll use

this weblog again to write up a micro-course on noncommutative geometry,

some people tell me they begin to miss the mathematics on this

site.

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