Once upon a time, I made a book.
That book was called Silicon Sasquatch: The First Year or So. And other than the fact that it’s printed on paper, wedged between a cover and bound by glue on one side, it’s not really a book in the traditional sense. It’s primarily just a collection of the best/worst/most significant articles we posted over on the blog I edit accompanied by short running commentary and a few brief essays highlighting our few successes and many failures along the road to becoming self-published independent writers without even a modicum of planning.
So it’s not exactly a page-turner. And I knew it at the time – I knew this wasn’t the kind of book you’d shop around to potential publishers in the hopes of catching someone’s attention. So we went with a small initial run – 50 copies, paid out of pocket by three unemployed writers – and sold the majority at-cost to friends and family. A few of my friends even read it and gave me feedback, which is a courtesy I’m still deeply grateful for.
There were about eight copies from that initial run intentionally left unsold. We’d originally planned to send copies out to games writers we were inspired by – folks like Jeff Green (former EIC of Computer Gaming World/Games for Windows), Leigh Alexander (Gamasutra, Kotaku and lots more) and Christopher Grant (founder of Joystiq). Aaron, Doug and I signed the copies and began drafting personalized letters to each of the intended recipients to try to explain with ample humility what, exactly, we’d just sent them.
I was paralyzed. I never sent out the copies.
I was afraid of being seen as a me-too writer, and I feared this book would be the final nail in the coffin for a misguided and inconsistent blogger with a bachelor’s degree in a dying medium. I couldn’t deal with the possibility of being rejected or worse – ignored.
So that’s why there’s a cardboard box in my living room I don’t open anymore.
This post you’re reading right now came about because I was combing through some abandoned article drafts on this blog and came across an untitled draft from December 2010. It began like this:
In hindsight, maybe it was stupid of me to spend my free time working on a book for an incredibly niche audience for the last couple months when I could have focused my efforts on moving out or finding work or, you know, not going broke.
After the book was printed and the copies had been distributed, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d spent two months knee-deep in the project, spending hours each day on layout, writing, editing and coordination with the rest of the blog staff. After years of dull work experience and more than a few false starts on my way to adulthood, I’d finally had a project where I could give it everything I had. And when that was gone, I began to worry.
Months passed. I was no closer to a job and the relatively minimal income needed to move out of my mom’s house than I was before I began working on the book. So I started looking for the next big thing I could take on.
Life intervened. I found a job I love and I moved to Austin. The rest is history.
In the 18 months since I moved to Austin, I hadn’t thought much about the book until just recently. I relegated it to that cache of unusual facts about my life (in the same vein as my childhood unicycling skills) that I’d offer up for get-to-know-you icebreaker sessions around groups of new people.
And then something unexpected happened: my book was featured on the syllabus for Writing About the Arts, a class I took in my last year as an undergrad. I was floored and even a little embarrassed – the book was kind of a mess, I thought. Do I really want a class of other prospective journalists to suffer through it?
It wasn’t until Aaron and I spoke to the class about the book and answered their questions that I realized that we’d actually done something meaningful. Yeah, it was a weird little book about an extraordinarily niche topic, but it represented years of work and countless thousands of hours of focus on the things we’re most passionate about. Knowing that our conviction and our experiences resonated with other people is humbling.
It took me a long time to understand this, but doing what matters to you and making things you’re passionate about is significant, no matter the medium or intended audience.
Or: If you give a shit about something, it shows.
I was flipping through the book this morning and landed on the final page. I’d written an essay about moving on from college and, really, from the book project itself:
Making a book is probably the most self-indulgent thing a person can do, but as long as someone draws inspiration from the trials we’ve endured and the lessons we’ve learned, I’ll feel like everything I’ve done for Silicon Sasquatch was worth the thousands of hours of writing, editing and doubt. And hey — even if the book sucks, it’s still Step One. It’s a real thing we can point to and claim as our own. The only way to go from here is up.