Bill Freeman is a Canadian urban issues writer and winner of the Governor General's Literary Award. He has authored nineteen books, including The New Urban Agenda. Bill lives on Toronto Island.
Emotion and the Practice of Writing
Writing a non-fiction book, for me, begins with developing a clear focus on the subject and creating an outline that describes in detail the progression of the argument. But that is just the beginning. Once I finish the research and begin to write, the book takes on a life of its own. The months of immersion in a project helps to bring it alive, deepen my understanding of the subject, and breathe life into the book.
My most recent book, Democracy Rising, was from the outset about the need for greater public participation in the democratic process. Once I began writing, new ideas emerged that demanded explanation. For example, I found that I could not just write about participatory democracy, I first had to explain representative democracy. That led to a discussion of the origins of democracy and how representative democracy was established in Canada.
I had planned from the beginning to include a chapter on the environmental movement, but it was only once I got writing the chapter that I understood the major contribution Canadian environmentalists have made to this worldwide effort. A small group of young political activists not only made us aware of the need to reduce pollution, but they helped Canadians to think differently about the natural world. That is participatory democracy at its best.
In the same way that readers engage imaginatively with characters in my historical fiction, I hope they will find Democracy Rising an emotional experience, too. Like the most compelling characters in novels, political issues have a way of leading us into intense explorations of the things that matter most to us. Good books, like healthy democracies, have that kind of emotional involvement at their core.