Making Survival First: Part 1 - Why?
Whether I dream or not, being the son of my delusions is enough for me to undertake lofty deeds. - Andromeda & Perseus.
I've read a lot of books, but I've never read anybody describe what it's like writing a book. I've always wondered about the basics. Why did they do it? How did they do it? What as it like? How did they publish? How long did it take?
I wrote a book - Survival First: The Rebel Entrepreneur's Guide to Risk, Riches and Immortality which is slated to come out early 2024. By the time I self-publish the book it will have taken nearly four years, many hundreds of hours of work, and around twenty five thousand dollars.
It's been the most intense, profound, exciting and rewarding creative experience of my life. This is the series I wish other authors would have written about their books. Here I will tell you everything I did and experienced along the way.
I'm writing this partially for self-indulgent reasons. I want to bow-tie these last four years into a cohesive narrative so someday I can go back and remember what it was like.
Of course, I don't expect you to martyr yourself for my indulgences. If you're thinking about going on your own ridiculous book journey, or if you’re just curious what it’s like, then you'll find lots of useful stuff here. In this series I will open the trench coat of my mind and soul and explain everything relevant to the process.
In later posts I'll describe some inside-baseball industry mechanics from the people I hired, the tools I used, why I self-published, why I had four different editors, how I crafted ideas, how I did (and didn’t) research, how I approached book cover design, the coaching program I went through, and other relevant things I’ll remember to shoehorn along the way. By the end of this series you'll have fast-tracked my entire four-year book creation process.
I’m timing this series deliberately. I'm roughly six months from launch. I have no idea how this book will perform, nor if/how my life will change after the fact. As I write this I'm close to locking in the manuscript, book cover design, and initiating the marketing stages.
This first chapter dives into the first big question - Why did I do this? It's a question with a simple origin, but whose answer became more complex along the way.
The question Why itself needs some clarification. To essence of the question why is to wonder where the energy required to induce action came from. Without energy, nothing happens.
Energy is a tricky thing. When it comes to people the energy question usually falls in two categories - the surface level rational brainy reasons and the subsurface mushy feely reasons.
I’ll first explain why I started the book. When lockdowns began a book publishing company called Scribe began offering free book writing webinars. I signed up and watched as their founders talked about the whole process. Ideas began stirring around in my head. Despite the pandemic my business was booming without much much effort. I was doing something right, but I didn't really understand what.
I tried outlining my thoughts for a blog series centered around the idea of risk and survival. But the more I outlined the more ideas kept cropping up. Questions lead to ideas which lead to more questions and more ideas. I was onto something...but I didn't know what. The timing was perfect. With lockdowns I had little distractions and plenty of time to plant questions into my mind and watch ideas take root. What was becoming clear was that whatever I was onto couldn't be contained in a blog series.
One day the thought bubbled up. I’m going to write a book. This wasn't the conclusion of some dramatic tension, but the ordinary acceptance of a simple realization. I wasn’t even sure what the book was going to be about. All I knew is that writing the book felt…obvious. Once I started I never for a second thought about stopping.
But that's why I started the book. This doesn't yet explain where the energy it took to follow through came from.
There's a lot of great reasons NOT to write a book. A book (well, a good book) takes a ton of money, time, and energy to create. Most books are ignored, forgotten quickly or barely make any money. I was doing something with a high chance of fading into nothingness.
But I rationalized some reasons.
Sure, there's the help-the-world reasons I'll get to, but I would be a fraud if I told you I didn't do this for myself. I'm no saint. I went though this process believed I would reap the greatest rewards. But what rewards would those be?
Money is the obvious monkey-brain reason. I'm under no illusion book sales will make me rich. That's for household name authors you see in airport book stores. The real book-money is indirect. A book, even if it doesn’t sell many copies, can carve out paths to speaking gigs, consulting, coaching and I'm sure a slew of other profitable opportunities I haven't yet thought of.
Since my book is about risk I obviously rationalized writing it from a risk-perspective. One of the greatest risks is fitting in. Fitting in is signing up for a life where I'm always fighting to differentiate myself for opportunities. Fitting in is death. In the before-times college degrees were valuable differentiating signals. Now….not so much.
Writing a book (especially a good one) is an investment in my reputation. If I do this book right I’ll have a much stronger reputation which functions as an effective differentiating signal. Unlike any other asset I can create or buy, my reputation is something that cannot be replicated or copied. I own it 100%. The stronger my reputation the stronger my ability to survive as an independent entrepreneur will be.
I’m not shy about my writing skills. I know I’m good - maybe even great at writing. Doubling down on my best skill feels obvious.
This book is my flaming lance into destiny's abyss. If I do this right this book will lead me to people, places and opportunities I can only vaguely approximate as I write this. This unknown upside is vast and thrilling.
I was becoming stagnant in my business. This book became a chance to grow in a new way in a new direction.
Of course vanity played a role. I would call bullshit on almost anyone pretending vanity didn’t play in role in their work.
I'll say it.
I want my name on something I created. I want the "yeah bitch, I made THAT" sense of pride when I hand somebody a copy. I want the elevated social status that comes with the title "author". I want to see my name on bookshelves. I want to be seen and validated by high status creators and thinkers.
But these rationalized monkey-brain reasons only explain the tip of the iceberg.
The Deep Why
The reality is that I could have done lots of other things to get money, status, reputation, acclaim, or whatever. If those were the only Whys I probably would have quit when things got hard, or put out a mediocre book in half the time. The real why, the reason I took the whole four years to make this the best book I could possibly make came from somewhere deeper.
The shortest way to explain the real why is because I had to. I didn't have to in the school-assignment or work deadline kind of way. It’s a feeling I can only approximate, but deep down I knew this book had to exist, and only I could do it. It was this deep sense of knowing that explains how I fell in love with the process.
I loved the book's topic - risk - which seemed to be the key to building the life I wanted. I loved watching tiny idea seeds blossom into a flourishing ecosystem of thought. I loved deconstructing, splitting, inverting, and reconfiguring ideas that made better sense of my reality. I loved experiencing my background-brain surface revelations to complex problems while in the course of ordinary life. I loved being surprised by my own conclusions. I loved how, like fine wine, time would add nuance and complexity to my ideas.
I loved finding creatively absurd and playful ways to communicate what I found. I loved (and sometimes hated) reflecting these conclusions onto myself. I loved interviewing entrepreneur friends and being trusted to tell their stories. Call me psycho, but even I loved editing - something many writers despise.
I loved watching piles of word vomit gradually refine into cohesive thoughts and completed narratives. I loved seeing the manuscript improve with each pass-through. I loved imagineering the book cover design. I loved talking about the book to anybody who would listen.
I loved knowing that friends, family and strangers will read this book and experience the journey contained inside. I loved knowing that I will have created something infused with my purest energy that will outlive me.
These were the feelings that became the infinite furnace of energy required to bring this thing to life. It's why not a single second, dollar and ounce of energy spent felt wasted. It's why working on it always felt like I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing.
I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if this book will flop or flourish or how my life will chance. All I know is that by the end of all this I will have made something beautiful, meaningful and entirely of my own essence.
Subscribe to jump on the Survival First book train and see where this baby goes.