The beginning of the calendar year is at its heart a fantasy of newness and clean slates—of the chance to do things differently and with more attention to purpose. In reality, it’s also one of the most challenging times of year for many of us, as we return from holidays and fly straight into the plate-glass window of an overfull schedule. As I talk with friends and colleagues about plans, the word “hectic” keeps coming up, and I think we should find that a little worrisome. A hectic fever is what you get when you have consumption. It looks a lot like excitement, but ultimately, you’re consumed.

Our second issue is a call to take a breath and remember what it is that we’re doing, and why. You won’t find any New Year’s resolutions, but you will encounter many different angles on the idea of first principles: the ideas and positions on which everything else is built. We don’t often have time to consider all the underlying stuff that gives our work shape, character, and meaning, and that time won’t ever appear on its own. But we can choose it. Even in the crazy spells—and maybe especially then, when we’re making so many important decisions.

We come from many different fields and traditions, and this issue’s contents reflect that fact. First, Sara Wachter-Boettcher kicks us off with an essay about the care and handling of professional curiosity. Later in the issue, we’ll have thoughts ranging from snack-sized to feast-worthy by writers who lead content strategy projects, write interfaces, develop reading applications, build information systems, and help shape the publishing world. We’ll also be launching the first official Contents project—a collaborative effort with some of our favorite thinkers that will, we hope, change industry practices in useful, principled ways.

Let’s talk

In our first issue, we introduced the Annotations that will end each issue we publish. For this, our second issue, we’d especially like to invite you to consider—and document—your own first principles: as blog posts, comments on our articles, tweets, or something else entirely. Send your links to @Contents throughout the issue, and we’ll collect a batch of them in this issue’s Annotations, come February. Please do join us.

— Erin