“This isn’t the book I meant to write… but apparently it’s the book I was meant to write.”

That was the one fresh line I had solidly in mind when I sat down over the summer to rewrite the introduction to The Remembering: Reflections on Love, Art, Faith, Heroes, Grief and Baseball (coming Dec. 6). It came to mind because it’s the truth.

The first draft of The Remembering opened with an introduction that you may never see. It focused mostly on the writer’s journey—a worthy topic, but let’s face it, one that can come off as a bit precious unless you do it really really really well (like, say, Anne Lamott).

When I started assembling the collection of essays that ended up forming the skeleton of The Remembering, I thought I knew what the book would look like when it was fleshed out. Once I had a basic framework in place, with the essays grouped into four chronological sections, it was a matter of writing pithy, clever introductions to each section, waxing witty about this or that aspect of the pieces just ahead, basically vamping with hors d’oeuvres until the reader got to the main course—the essays.

At a certain point in the writing process, though, I came to realize that my initial vision had it exactly backwards: the introductory pieces were the main course, and the essays the tasty bites in between. My goal with the new writing I was adding had been to provide context for what lay ahead, but the process taught me that the context—the events in my life that shaped and informed the essays—was in fact the story this book wanted to tell. Which meant in turn that the book was something fundamentally different; neither an essay collection nor, strictly speaking, a memoir, but an unusual hybrid.

Rather re-plow that ground, though, let’s get to it: here’s an excerpt from the new—and final—introduction to The Remembering.