Write What You Know or Keeping It “Real”

Written by Monkeybrad on August 14th, 2012

That’s pretty good advice. I know I have heard it enough and it is pretty much what I do. I write about the stuff I know; things I like, things I care about, making things, seeking out adventures, good things to eat, you know basic monkey stuff. Sometimes, I end up writing stuff for newspapers, articles and magazines. Every once in a while someone sends me a check for doing that and people refer to me as an “author”. That never feels genuine to me, because it’s just an article or some stuff I wrote that someone liked or needed, but it is nice.  I have always held out that to be a real author, you would have to write a book. Well, to paraphrase Miss O’Hara, “I guess I’ve done authoring now.”

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Geocaching, Third Edition

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching, Third Edition

Yep, a real publisher paid me real money to write a bunch of words and collect a bunch of images and format them using a byzantine system which I barely understood in order to craft a real book that you can go to a real store and purchase with real dollars. Luckily, they also paid an awesome content editor to make sure I avoided comma splices and an amazing tech editor to talk me through the process, formatting and to make sure that we had “significant new content” for this most recent edition. More importantly, the great folks at Geocaching.com provided a ton of support and made sure I had everything I needed at every step along the way. My partner in prose, Jenn Seva, provided guidance, supplied data, answered millions of silly questions and then went through my drafts to make sure we “had it right” before springing it on the world. So, like usual, I was able to look good because a bunch of people worked really hard behind the scenes to make things happen.

I am really proud of this bit of work, which is funny because that’s not my default response to things. It was interesting to get inside the process and learn that putting words down on paper is the easy part. The outlining, formatting, doing interviews and securing clearances, that is the real work. Writing is fun, but creating an overall piece of work that can be published is more challenging, and rewarding. The first time I walked into a store and saw it on the shelf, I was really surprised by how happy it made me to know that those late nights in my office alone had gone to create this real thing that really exists.

On the Shelf at REI

I also learned that impostor syndrome is real and even with this sitting on my bookshelf, I am still not a “real” author. I thought that having major publishing house seek me out to write something specific for them would provide some credibility, but that voice inside reminds me that it is non-fiction, therefore not a “real” creative work. It is also a “guidebook” so not a scholarly tome that will be referred to for the ages and it’s just a new edition of a book that was written for idiot’s in the first place. This is not a poor, pitiful me thing, it’s just a fact of life. I don’t think we ever get to feel grown-up and successful at a thing until we get to see it in retrospect. Perhaps objects in the rear view mirror are not only closer than they appear, but somehow more real. I think that is what drives us to keep doing things, to going around that next bend and writing more stuff in the hopes that someday it will feel legitimate. Even when I laugh it off, it is nice to be “the guy who wrote the book on Geocaching” and as silly as it sounds, it is really cool when people ask me to sign their copy. When I flip to that last page and see our pictures there, I am proud and I know that I wrote the words and the words are real; and those words and the formatting and the pictures make that book real and it all really exists because I wrote what I knew.

 

 

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