Writing, like software development, is a creative process – perhaps that is why I’m drawn to both. Like all creative efforts, writing cannot be rushed. Creativity will flow when you’re mind is in the properly rested and inspired. Anything else will simply result in mediocrity and frustration.
What am I getting at, you ask? The dreaded writer’s block.
Those unfamiliar with it may not immediately recognize it for what it is, but it’s burn-out. Something many creative types can relate to.
Writing my own book has been an amazing process. I’ve learned a lot, and oddly about things I never wished to learn, and I’ve even earned enough money to buy a pair of shoes – good thing I wasn’t planning on getting rich doing this. But, something odd happened when I finished the first part (out of four) of my book. I lost my momentum.
It’s not that I didn’t want to write anymore. Instead, it’s that I did want to write, but part II of my book required that I go back to the drawing board on some concepts. This meant starting over, from a conceptual standpoint. This also meant losing that steady pace of momentum that had kept me going for the first four chapters. At first, I tried to force myself through it, but that didn’t work. None of the ideas felt right. I needed a new running example to help illustrate the concepts, and everything I thought of felt either forced or too similar to my day job for me to feel comfortable with.
With each passing day, my frustration in the project increased. At times I felt like I didn’t even want to finish the book, but the idea of a quarter-finished book ate at me too. Damned if I tried to finish it, and damned if I left it to languish. I’m writing this now having turned a corner in my writing.
There is a level of irony to it, but sometimes to truly care about something you must first stop caring. It wasn’t until I was frustrated enough to say “screw it, I don’t care anymore” that I was able to get over my stumbling block. That is to say; when I finally gave up on caring so much about finding a perfect example, I was able to find a perfect example. We are our own worst critic. Having provided technical review for half-a-dozen titles and counting, I’ve seen first hand the early stages of other’s writing. We’re all the same. All of those titles share one thing in common and share it in common with my book, and every other book – they all started somewhere, and only through iterative editing do they take the shape of the clean, polished, professional thing we associated with a “book”.
It is unfair to myself, and unfair to anyone else who’s written a book, to compare my unfinished work to their finished work. So what if the first drafts contain something less than perfect – perfection is the enemy of good. By first accepting something less than perfect I was ironically able to free myself to resume the creative process.
The end result is that I’m back in the rhythm of writing on Data Synchronization: Patterns, Tools, and Techniques again. I’m simultaneously working on chapters 5 and 6 – as I get stuck on one I switch to the other. It’s exciting to be making progress on my book again!