That Familiar ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Nov 11, 2015 | 2 comments


The Proverbial Iceberg

I don’t know if it’s true for most writers but, for me, the closer I come to ‘finished’ with a new book, the more angst I have. Maybe it’s an affliction pertaining only to writers of non-fiction. I think of it as the ‘Tip-of-the-Iceberg-Syndrome.’

It goes something like this: the more involved you become with the subject of your book, the more you realize that you can only cover part of it. Or maybe it’s that you are only interested in the most obvious aspects of the topic. You begin to have doubts – as in, is your approach half-baked? Too general or too glib? Is it even worth the effort?

Endless Archives

Endless Archives

If I’m not careful, I begin to consider whether or not scrap the current approach and begin again. Should I, in fact, do an in-depth treatment? Do I have a few more years at my disposal to do the research? And would any potential readers even care enough to buy a multi-volume set on the subject?

Those are the thoughts that have started to surface now that my first draft of “Jailhouse Stories from the Jumping-Off Place” is almost completed. The more work I’ve done on the book, the more I’ve found out. And, of course, the more I find out, the more I realize that I know very little. It’s a maddening cycle… And it makes me feel the urge to start again.

Unending Reference Books

Unending Reference Books

Unfortunately (actually, it’s more likely Fortunately) I have a contract that includes a (now looming) deadline. I also have two more books on the back burner so I doubt if a more in-depth sequel to this one will ever be forthcoming.

Or… maybe someone else will use the tip of my iceberg as a diving platform.


  1. marjorie cochane

    I can sympathize, Sidney. After Bold Women in Alaskan History went to press last year I kept thinking How could I have limited it to just a dozen women. Did I choose the right dozen What about all those other Bold Women? and of the ones I chose….what sources did I not find that would have made these women even more memorable…like you commented, that’s one of the problems in writing non-fiction.

  2. Cate Gable

    No, my non-fiction dears, it’s the problem of all writers (perhaps all humans?). A poem is never finished. A collection of poetry is never finished. There is only the moment when one must pull the drawbridge up and the final commas are set on the page that creates a “product.”

    But in business the saying is “Perfection is the enemy of good enough…”


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