This is how I'd like to write my next book.

A story I once heard about Philip Johnson, the famous American architect, made a permanent impression on me.

According to this story, Johnson was at lunch in NYC one day when he had the idea to build a skyscraper with a Chippendale pediment on the top (for those of you having difficulties picturing a Chippendale pediment, think of the split, roughly triangular top of a grandfather clock, or a chest of drawers or a bookcase by, um, Chippendale).



So (the story goes), he's at lunch at the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building (architect: Mies van der Rohe), makes a quick sketch of  a skyscraper with a Chippendale pediment, finishes his lunch, goes back to his office, hands the sketch (a long rectangle with a funny top) to his vast team of architects and engineers, tells them to design and build it according to his (so-far non-existent) specifications, and then goes home. Or to the movies. Or to bed.

The result? What everyone in the early 1980s described as THE great post-modern skyscraper: the new headquarters for AT&T.

I've often thought of this story over the years, at those moments in which I would do almost anything to turn a sketch of a book idea over to a team of architects and engineers (or writers) and go back to bed.

It's the idea, after all, that generates the excitement. It's the idea that makes your heart soar and your pulse race. It's the idea that this one might be the big one, the one that Just Works, that makes you famous, that eases the anxiety of the blank page....forever. What a wonderful idea!

The rest is damned hard work.