Watching the "60 Minutes" piece about Stephen Hawking last Sunday, I came to realize that Stephen and I have a lot in common. To wit, I've read every page of "A Brief History of Time" and so, I must presume, has Stephen. The reporting was that millions and millions of copies of this book have been sold, but only a few dozen have actually been read (a slight exaggeration, perhaps, but not by much). "This is a book," said a minister with a sense of humor, "that you buy and put on the shelf, never to be looked at again, like the Bible."
I've also read Hawking's new book, "The Universe in a Nutshell," from cover to cover, so this must put me in even more exalted company. However, since evidently I like to read books that few other people read, the disturbing implication is that I like to write books that few other people would want to read. This isn't new news for me. It just reinforced my resolution to keep my writing as simple and straightforward as possible.
I've finished my initial attempt at rewriting my first book, "God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder." I took out a lot of unnecessarily complex stuff, and toned down the preachiness and moralizing. Now, I'm making my way through the 450 pages of "Return to the One," my new book about Plotinus's spiritual/mystical teachings, trying to look at the book afresh through a typical reader's eyes.
It's pleasurable, in a painful sort of way, to take out a pen and cross out passages that I labored to write, and rewrite. This bears not a little resemblance to spring cleaning, when you peruse all the beloved crap that has accumulated in your house and summon up the guts to start throwing it in the garbage can. The first few tosses, you wonder "But maybe I should keep this..." Soon, though, it feels better to get rid of what you don't need, than to hang on to it. Same with writing.