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Publishing a book in a year: April

It’s just happened again. Someone asks me what I’m working on and I explain that I’m writing a book about regenerative design. The inevitable next two questions come:

First, what is regenerative design?

Second, can you give me an example?

I do my best to answer. But it feels messy, inadequate, ill conceived. Often as I try and give examples people respond by saying, “but that isn’t regenerative, I can see how that is low impact, but it’s not regenerative.”

And the doubt sets in.

And I wonder if I should be writing this book at all.

Maybe I am not able to adequately describe my ideas.

Maybe the ideas just don’t work.

And so the doubt builds.

Maybe I just need the summer off.

Maybe with everything else going on I just don’t have the mental capacity.

And the doubt builds.

If you’ve ever tried to write a book wrestling with doubt is, I think, part of the process.

And April is the month for wrestling with doubt.

It’s been a long term, long year, long two years (actually three years) and my personal resilience is low.

I planned this month on sharing the process whereby I sit down, draw some diagrams, link up lots of concepts, turn them into a linear list, which becomes the section headers for the book. I planned on capturing all of this in a single day, Monday just gone in fact. Once the list is created writing a book is easy, under each heading you need to think up about 300 words. You do this 100 times and you have 30,000 words, or a short book. Except I sat down on Monday, and I drew diagram after diagram, and I didn’t get a list, instead I became more aware of the complexity of the task in front of me. Because the topic is complex.

Trying to summarise what regenerative design is in simple words is complex.

Trying to point to projects which are regenerative turns out to misunderstand what regenerative design is. I am no longer convinced a project can be regenerative.

Today I was reading my lent[1] reflection book Embracing Justice by Isabelle Hamley. As I was reading my brain was wandering, it was wondering what I should write about, and then the line “Justice is a vocation” caught my attention. In the same way regeneration is not a one off event, it is a vocation, it is longitudinal. Pointing to moments does not reflect the whole.

It is much like the photos of my family. These photos capture moments, but they could never capture the richness, the joy, the arguments, the kindness, the bonds, the interconnectivity. No photo will ever describe what it is like to live in our family.

So it is with projects. The challenge is that we love to look at projects like we love to look at photos. They are easy to understand. To replicate.

I appreciate I am drifting, but in the doubting, in the challenge, in the complexity of what we are trying to do I have discovered that it is in leaning into the difficult questions where I both feel most inadequate and why I think this book needs to happen. It both challenges me and drives me forward. And it is in the conversations that I realise that this book, far from a fools errand, has a purpose beyond myself and my own doubts and inadequacies.

So April is about not giving up. I couldn’t honestly say I am moving forward, but I believe I will again. But today I choose to keep going.

[1] Lent is a period in the Christian calendar that builds up to Easter. It lasts 40 days but doesn’t include the Sundays. It is often a time for reflection and contemplation. If you have given up something for lent, you might like to know that Sundays are not officially included!!!

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