Writing a ucdm is an experience unlike anything else. It’s a challenging experience, but something that sort of ‘grows on you’. The recent completion of the writing of my book, The Optimized Leader, was filled with many phases. And, I’ve created this story in response to questions I have received about the process, as well as the perception of writing being a daunting task.
As an original academic start to a doctoral dissertation, the book was filled with extensive research. Being my first book, it was highly unorganized at the start. The book began in a rapid span of writing, totaling nearly 100 pages in the first month (June 2012). By the time I uprooted a couple of months later to North Carolina, from Missouri, in September I was approaching 200 pages of dialogue. The relocation and drastic change in my career put the book on hold at the end of the initial ‘high’ of productivity. As a result, the overall manuscript was hit with my frustration of a lack of direction and organization.
I read the book at the time in its current state while editing and proofreading. I continued to find a lack of organization and a clearly lacking destination that was to be accomplished. I resumed my education three months after moving to NC, putting another pause to the book. As I continued graduate studies, I gained new ideas for writing and began to incorporate them into the book. After completion of the post-graduate courses I was taking, I took part in a process improvement project through work that included extensive studies in DMAIC (a lean process improvement model, similar to six sigma) and began work on a project with a focus on reduction of surgical infection for a particular type of procedure at the hospital I was working at. And, again, the process improvement courses added ideas to the book.
Both the education courses and the DMAIC training contributed to the book in additional dialogue, totaling, over the course of another four to five months, roughly 50 pages of writing, review and analysis. But, a few things took place affecting this section of the writing process. I’ll cover those in a moment.
After about eight months (April 2013) in NC, my career was being further developed as I was assigned to new projects in training and consulting on top of my existing job. Again, this caused a great deal of slowing in the progress of the book. I spent the following few months traveling frequently with no solid assignment that was really in place, based on the circumstances and uncertainty in the assignment I was a part of. This was ‘the dark period’ of the book. For almost five months, the book set with little review and no (zero) progress in dialogue.
In July, I was offered a promotion and relocation, lending to the dark period above. But, in mid-August, I began pulling the book back out as I felt I was not contributing to anything productive outside of work, and I’m a glutton for challenging myself. So, one evening I decided it was time to power through and see this thing to the end. I pulled the book off of my shelf, in its most recent state at the time, and began the process in its entirety. I looked at the book as a plant that needed watered, trimmed and encouragement to become something bigger.
Finding gaps, missing pieces and unorganized dialogue, I began to rework the book page-by-page, meticulously re-organizing and updating. But, the progress still really hadn’t begun. I had organized it as well as it could be for the moment, but felt it lacked purpose and conceptual application for a reader. So, I developed an extensive spreadsheet with a sort of ‘checklist’ for what every chapter needed to be. This included what each chapter needed to build on and why the chapter was in the book at all, as well as what material needed to be researched, discussed and applied.
This approach was a new challenge in itself. I suddenly went from a mind frame of ‘producing’ to a mind frame of ‘quality’ and ‘purpose’ with a sense of direction while requiring myself to answer some critical questions. The questions included: (1) what is the purpose of the book; (2) what is the vision of the book; (3) what is the mission of the book; (4) what does each chapter add and what does it cover; (5) what are the gaps; (6) what was redundant; (7) did the chapter have conceptual clarity; (8) what was it that specifically warranted the chapter at all.
Though the questions weren’t necessarily in that order they were a part of the process and required more writing work just to complete the spreadsheet.
From this foundation, I re-read the book and completely omitted a few chapters, drastically reduced the length of several chapters and extensively re-wrote the entire book. Oh, and the 50 or so pages from the inspired material from course work and DMAIC training, those were deleted, only to be re-written, and deleted again. Perhaps a 2nd edition of the book in the future will incorporate these concepts as I grow as a writer.