What’s it like to write a book

So it’s finally done, earlier on in the month my book was published and delivered to me. As I leafed through the hardcopy, my phone kept pinging with messages from my friends with photos of the book in their hand. Even with all this, it still doesn’t really feel real.

To be honest, I haven’t brought myself to actually read through it. I can’t, because when I come across a typo or an error, there isn’t really anything I can do because it’s in print, it will just bug me. However, this hasn’t stopped me from coming up with new topics to cover in the second edition at random times such as brushing my teeth.

The scary thing is that …. I don’t really feel anything different. I’ve always had a next attitude, moving onto another task quickly. This has resulted in me never attending any of my three graduation ceremonies. I’ve always been thinking and doing something else. This hit me when I was speaking to a friend over the phone. They asked how many copies had been sold, and I realised that it never occurred to for me to ask the marketing department of the publishers. I am currently working on medical simulation software for the German government with a friend, pitching a book idea on fusing python with Rust, and getting ready to write the second edition of the microservices with Rust textbook in the next 4 months. I guess when you get on the treadmill, it can be hard to look up. My book was delivered to me on the 6th of March, and I’m only just now writing about it on my blog. This has also spilled into my social life. Sometimes I can take weeks to reply to people. I’ve had to turn off notifications on my social media apps otherwise I never really get anything done. When I post something, sometimes I get some nice comments. I see them, smile, and then think that I will reply later. A week later and I am torn. Is it insulting to start replying to comments a week later? Does it look like I’m just trying to pump the post for views? I don’t honestly know, and the paralysis has then left it too late. The bizarre thing is that I take more time agonising over it than it would take to respond to people. I keep telling myself that next year I will relax. But each year, things just seem to get faster. Don’t get me wrong I am not a victim, I chose this and I get to do and see some cool things, but nothing is for free. Still, I am grateful that I get to agonise over such first world problems. Anyhow, enough of the self indulgence, what was it actually like writing a book?

First thing that comes to mind is that it’s constant march. The editors and on your back chasing chapters every two weeks and giving you multiple revisions of the previous chapters from technical editors and proof readers. At the time of doing it, I wished for a break. I was going to bed at 2am most nights and there were times where I just didn’t want to see another line of Rust code. However, looking back at the process, it was needed. I have in the past tried to do projects by myself and failed. I also know plenty of others who have done the same. Keeping the momentum up is really had. You hit the wall multiple times. There are times you just want to give up, but when a team of editors are chasing you, you have to pick yourself up and keep going because you don’t want to break your contract and let them down. If I tried to do this book just by myself without a publisher whipping me, then I probably would have failed. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have higher work ethics than me, but I think I and a lot of people definitely need to sign that contract with a publisher in order to get the book done. Lose momentum, and we’re in the replying to comments on social media situation all over again.

Considering this, we also have to address the other need for a publisher, cutting corners. At times when I hit the wall, I sometimes just wanted to get the chapter done. This meant that I started to cut corners. I just wanted to get it done. However, this didn’t get past the editors and they returned the chapters with requests. Again, signing a contract with a publisher made me maintain the quality. I then got to the final two chapters, and here I really dragged my feet. I think this is the final hurdle where a lot of people who are writing books by themselves will fall off. I technically wanted to complete the book. If you asked me straight out if I was excited about finishing the book, I would say yes. However, for the last two chapters my productivity completely tanked. After looking back with a clear head, I now understand why I did this. Ok, the proof readers and the technical reviewers were giving the chapters their stamp of approval. However, when it’s published, it hits a bigger audience of potential critics. What if there’s something we are all missing? What happens if the community hates, and deems it one of the worst books for web programming in Rust? When it gets published, and customers all over the world buying and reading it, it’s out there. Wide spread criticism could be a thing. This was paralysing. Here I just had to get over myself, take the plunge, and cross the finishing line. Again, big factors such as the contract with the publisher, and friends and family asking about it helped.

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