war on the rocks

Entry 20: A Book Jealous for Words

January 10, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 20th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?


So technically I gave almost no words to the book today. I say “technically” because I poured myself into writing an op-ed that totally drained me — 1,800 words in five hours — but the op-ed was about the illogic of giving Kim Jong Un a “bloody nose,” which is very much on theme.

Writing that much that quickly was a grind. After it was done, I sent it off and just sort of collapsed. I didn’t have much left for the book. So I spent an hour or so later in the day poking at the fourth chapter like a little kid pushing peas around on his plate, but not really writing much more. I enjoy keeping this diary so far, but after crashing on so many words today I’m feeling spent.

Doing that op-ed might be considered a diversion or counter-productive except that: 1) it conforms to the Bob Kaplan rule about mixing short- and long-term writing projects, and 2) I might be able to literally re-use some of the language from the op-ed somewhere in the book.

So all in all, I feel like I put in a good day’s work, even if I didn’t chop away much at my current chapter.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks.

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