Charles Petzold

Things You Shouldn't Do When You're Writing a Book

November 15, 2005
New York City

Writing a book is unrelenting hard work. Lose a couple days and you start thinking you'll never catch up (which is probably true). Here are ways to avoid some common pitfalls.

1. Don't Go to the Doctor's

It may seem like a routine bi-annual visit, but there are also follow-ups, and referrals to specialists, and discovering that you're now at that age when certain unspeakable procedures become prudent, and then you get a flu shot that renders your arms incapable of typing.

And what if they find something really wrong and you need immediate and prolonged medical attention? Are you then supposed to just stop writing the book? It's a tough call, and it's not an area where your publisher can offer unbiased recommendations.

2. Don't Take Speaking Engagements in Faraway Lands

Yes, it may only be a total of 90 minutes in front of an audience, but throw in two whole days in Las Vegas, two travel days, and two weeks of preparation, and you start to forget everything you once knew about dependency properties.

Of course, DevConnections was great fun, and I got to meet some cool people, and I had a really good sushi dinner, and like all other attendees I got a free copy of Visual Studio 2005 Professional, which is good because buying the thing would have taken a big chunk out of my retirement savings.

3. No New Toys

No new gadgets of any type. No cameras. No MP3 players. No strange WiFi thingie. If necessary, you can have a photo of the gadget as your wallpaper so it provides an incentive to finish the book.

4. No Additional Learning Experiences

There is time enough later in life to learn French, brush up on First-Order Predicate Logic, or read David Hume's Treatise of Human Nature .

5. No Major Life Changes

If you're married, stay married. If you're not, don't. Same thing with kids. This is a book we're talking about. It's serious business.

Things You Can (And Should) Do When Writing a Book

You don't have to be a total hermit. Balanced recreation is healthy and helpful. Here are a few simple ways to keep yourself sane:

Someday the book will be finished, and then you can resume your life.