In sports there is a concept known as The Yips. It’s a condition that affects experienced athletes where they develop spasms in fine motor movements that impact their game in a profound way. It’s generally in culture ascribed to the athlete letting their head get in the way. They begin to overthink things too much. It interferes with their movements, causing them to do poorly. This creates a negative feedback loop where they are doing badly because they’re thinking too much, which causes them to think even more and do even more badly. It can completely destroy an athlete’s career.
Back when I started with tech, I didn’t have a lot of experience with programming, but I did have a lot of experience with writing and speaking. I delivered radio news for three years. I had a journalism degree. I knew that I could present and deliver information in a clear concise way. The big problem I had was that I was limited in what information I understood that I could present.
I had the opportunity to write several books early in my career that I felt very proud of. These were generally introductory books, which contain information that tends to be easier and more fun to present.
That changed two years ago when I was given the opportunity to write a book on Metal. I felt very strongly that I could learn and explain Metal in a way that was understandable because I was coming at this as a beginner. Everyone I spoke to who knew Metal was someone who was very familiar with OpenGL and didn’t really understand what a beginner would not know about. There was a lot of unfamiliar terminology that you need to have a good grasp of in order for Metal to be useful. I had a lot of confidence that I could present this information in a presentable way to people with no graphics background.
During the process of writing the book, I didn’t really have time to think about what I was actually trying to do. I was laser focused on accomplishing one task at a time until the book was done. It was an intense but satisfying experience to watch as my small steps added up to a full book.
I needed a break from writing, so I didn’t blog much or work on a book in 2018. During that year, I had some time to think. And the thoughts I had weren’t very pleasant.
When I completed the book I was proud of what I was able to accomplish in the time I had available. I felt that it would take two years to write a good book on Metal. I had about ten months. I didn’t have time/resources for the number of graphics I wanted for the book or the amount of sample code I originally planned for. When I finished I felt that I had had the minimal amount of time to write a book that I would not be embarrassed by. But not being embarrassed by something is vastly different from being proud of it.
There are several chapters of the book that my tech reviewers were deeply disappointed in. One of them has blocked me on Twitter. The other one will not speak to me. I don’t know if this is a reflection on them or on me. I don’t really understand socially what happened and it upsets me to know my peers do not like or respect me.
I have begun second guessing myself on the book. I don’t know if I presented the information well. I keep worrying that people who read the book are judging me and deciding the book was bad and that I exposed myself as a fraud who doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
I finally began reading through the book the Wenderlich’s published on Metal after having to get over my fears of it being far better book than my book was. I think it’s a better book than mine and they cover a lot of the material in a much more comprehensive manner than I cover my material, but I also feel the book is incredibly dense. I only understand the material presented because I took off nearly a year to fully understand Metal to the point of writing my own book. I don’t want that to come off as bitchy or dismissive of their book because it’s full of a lot of great information. It’s a great book for me and I am grateful that it exists, but I do wonder how much help it is to people without the same background I have.
I have begun to worry that this material is completely unpresentable. That there is no way to simply explain things to new users. This is causing me to second guess my ability to present any information about anything. I don’t know if I actually was ever good at presenting information or if it was just hubris on my part.
I don’t know if I should take this as a sign to give up on writing technical books or if I need to jump back in so that I can get over this. I keep going back and forth. Some days I am super enthused about the idea of writing a book from my own perspective. Other times I feel like I am just copying work other people have done but in a much less compelling way.
I feel the urge to hide. I don’t want to talk to or deal with anyone. I want to be left alone. I want to just work on crappy little projects that will never earn money that I do for myself because I have given up on the idea that I have anything of value to contribute to the tech community.
I keep trying to tell myself that completing the Metal book was an accomplishment. I wrote that book in less than a year. I wrote it by myself. I got up every day and stuck to a plan and shipped something. It’s not perfect. But for better or worse it’s presented in the way I felt it should be presented. This was a challenge and I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to present difficult materials.
My hope is that anyone who reads the book and is disappointed by the content that they at least understand that I worked hard and did what I thought was right. I did the best I could under the circumstances that I was given. I don’t know if I would have done things any differently had I to go back and do it over again. But now I have to deal with wondering where I stand and what I have to contribute to the community.