Writing the Tao
“The Tao of the Alligator and the Crocodile” presented me with some unique challenges & forced me to answer questions I would not have otherwise asked myself. The genesis for the book was twofold. At one time I was doing a lot of articles on alligators & the American crocodile. Alligators are easy to find & photograph in Florida & unless they’ve been fed by people you can get very close to them without putting yourself in any danger, I’d spend hours watching them & soon became fascinated by them. Hard to explain because they don’t do very much. They lay in the sun, float in water, hunt every now & then. Lots of energy conservation. More acquired knowledge increased the fascination. I got a part time job at an alligator park & worked with them, specifically one 12-footer & around 15 6-footers, feeding them, draining their pools, giving educational talks etc. & when not doing that I watched them for hours. And they watched me. They sunbathed or slowly swam in the pools. I gingerly managed to touch the smaller ones. They never attacked or ran away. They simply were. I wondered what was going on behind their eyes. Crocodilians have brains the size of walnuts, they’re not particularly intelligent. I realized that nothing & everything was going on. It was a Zen-like moment of epiphany because I knew I finally understood what they were about. I wanted to do a book about them which I did, a trade paperback about alligators & crocodiles, got a nice advance & an option for a second book. We all know the marketing department has a great deal of influence on the editors as to what will sell & what won’t. Editors invariably defer to the marketing gurus. In this particular case the marketing people had a diametrically opposite opinion as to what I thought the book was about. Turns out they were wrong, the book didn’t sell. Very bad experience because I had to make compromises I was uncomfortable making. Never again. We learn & move on.
I gave serious thought as to whether I should write the ebook I really wanted to write about alligators & crocodiles. But I know it’s going to be a hard if not impossible sell. Nobody really cares about alligators/crocodiles. Personally I think they’re really cool because they’re the perfect animal. And connecting the Tao to alligators/crocodiles is even harder because the Tao is an essence that can’t be explained in conventional terms. It’s almost like trying to prove a negative – it can’t be done. In my research I discovered the relationship between crocodilians & dragons & that’s when the challenges & questions arose. I don’t write for free. I’m reasonably compensated for my time & effort. So should I spend a lot of time & effort not to mention a certain amount of money for cover design, webmaster services etc. on a project that I really want to do but I’m pretty sure won’t compensate me for my time & effort? I’m also pretty sure I’m going to lose money. Plus I also know it’ll be a hard book to promote which I’m not very good at to begin with. Or should I spend the time on another project that would keep the lights on & (I think the saying is) put a crust of stale bread & a bottle of cheap red wine on the table? The question/problem created much existential & professional angst. Very uncomfortable position to be in. In the end I decided to do the book.
We do what we have to do & sometimes we do it for love.