Things I Learned Writing a Book For My Son
Tomorrow I’m going to give my son a book for his birthday. I’ve been working on it for the past year, and now it’s finally done. Today I was asked by a friend if I was “willing to share the table of contents and any thoughts you have about structure and form that you feel like you learned along the way.” Indeed I am!
The Process That Ended Up Working For Me
Each day I’d sit in front of my computer and think up what sort of fatherly wisdom I’d want to share, then I wrote about it. Each essay was pretty short, usually under 500 words. I just plugged away like this for a few months and eventually I had a body of work to edit and curate.
The Order Taught Me A Lot About Myself
If you could only write about a single topic to share with your kids, what would it be? Might as well write that one first! In my case, it was about how I didn’t want my kid to try to be like me. I wanted my kid to get good at figuring out who he is. It’s like that Steve Jobs insight about Disney after Walt Disney died: don’t ask what Disney or Jobs would do, ask what’s right for Disney or Apple. I have the same parenting philosophy, and I said as much.
How about your second post? For me, it was about curosity, and how I think “being bad at things is my hobby.” I love beginner’s mind. I love trying new things. I don’t enjoy being bad at stuff, but I’ve learned to appreciate that you learn the most when you’re the most clueless. So I wrote about that.
Then I explained how to listen to people well, then how to get things done, then I talked about intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic, I went into a whole thing about compound interests joys and perils and finances in general, then I veered into politics, polarisation, and being media savvy. I talked about the police, feminism, confirmation bias, I included an essay called “How To Be A Parent,” then I went into personal boundaries, relationships, falling in love, a sobering one called “When I Die,” and finished the first portion of the book with an essay called “I Enjoyed My Day With You Today,” where I just explained all the things that he did that made me proud on that average day. There were other essays in there, but that’s the general arc.
Looking back at it later was really interesting. The priority order spoke to what things I find most important. It was a helpful lesson about myself.
It’s Fun Writing for One Person
Writing for one person is super different than writing online. I recommend it!
“Fuck It, Ship It”
It’s really easy to get wrapped up in perfectionism when writing a project like this. You want to do a good job, and it’s easy to imagine a book like this being a cherished artifact on the family bookshelf. I had to really struggle to not give up, not overthink it, and just write to the best of my ability.
Gandhi has a line in one of his books where he says “if you see me contradict myself, just follow the writing with the more recent publication date.” This book will be the same. I’ll change my mind later, and that’s ok. The key is that I didn’t get so paralysed by making something perfect that I gave up.
Track Progress, Maintain Motivation
I’ve been tracking my progress in this very publication. Here’s a link to some other essays I’ve written about it. They say that telling someone you’re going to do something can actually make it less likely to follow through because you release the happy feelings of completing it without actually doing anything.
On the other hand, I found that keeping a journal of my progress was good for sticking to the goal. Not many people are reading, but knowing that someone might ask “hey how’s that project going?” helped keep my motivation up.
Hope that helps! Let’s all go write books for our kids!