Upgrading from 60k to 30k. AKA, the 60-thousand word detour.
You probably noticed; I took a few weeks off from daily publication to focus on finishing the draft of The Positioning Manual for Indie Consultants. And I actually did finish it! Or rather… “finish” it. :)
It’s still a messy draft. It still needs illustrations. And it needs an edit real bad.
Alfred Stieglitz' advice to Edward Weston about photography was: “Nothing must be unconsidered”. That is a big part of what makes writing a book difficult. At some point, all those @TODOs and @TKs and loose ends and inconsistencies and accidental repetitions need to be gone, and the 30 or 60 or however many thousands of words need to pull as one, like a tug of war rope team.
About 8 months ago, I also “finished” The Positioning Manual (TPM). L.O.L.
Generous people gave it a beta read and gave me feedback. The feedback was helpful and positive. And yet… after reviewing it all and very quickly and efficiently (ha! yeah, no... actually) very slowly and inefficiently moving into a responding-to-the-feedback phase, just enough time had passed to allow me to set aside my plans and think about my goals with this book.
I’m so glad I did. I’m so glad I wasn’t quick and efficient at moving the process forward. The delay served future book readers well.
That’s the key here: during the delay, I figured out who this book is for.
The now-discarded ~60,000-word draft was for me.
The new, ~30,000-word draft is for my readers.
I got started in marketing in 2007 by writing white papers for Microsoft. Around this time, Microsoft was working to featurize virtualization in their next release of Windows Server.
The virtualization product manager, Mike Neil – still at Microsoft, now a VP, and still apparently rocking some impressively long hair – published a blog post containing a phrase I’ll never forget:
Shipping is a feature, too.
What a great line. And what an important truth!
The realization I had with The Positioning Manual is that writing a book that readers can enjoy completing is a feature, too.
The original version of TPM has reached just a bit over 2,000 readers. The goal with this version is to reach many more. This will involve a different pricing and distribution approach.
And this needs to involve a different writing approach. One where the choices about what’s in the book and what’s not in the book work together to implicitly but very strongly say to readers: this is not scary. This is not overwhelming. This is not dangerous. You too, can do this.
A surprising thing I’ve learned about myself through this process is how much of my own anxiety I transfer into my writing, and the way that signals to readers that I don’t fully trust them to take good ideas and make them their own. The anxiety wants to micro-manage their implementation of the ideas, and it doesn’t leave space for their brilliance.
This comes from a basically good place in me, but it results in a 60k-word draft when a 30k-word book might be far more helpful. “Completeability” was the feature missing from the now-discarded draft.
I thought that sentiment was a good place to conclude the book, and so that is how I approached the final chapter, which you can read below.
I’m also sharing the manuscript online until I reach the book layout stage, then this preview goes away and you’ll have to buy a print or electronic copy on Amazon: https://htmlpreview.github.io/?https://gist.githubusercontent.com/philipmorg/964918935d879784bcd0de19365594e3/raw/141d00240287cfc2f1d12a7b4415c4daed24d43f/tpm-v2.9.html
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
I threw away a 59,000-word draft of this book and rewrote from scratch the version you’ve hopefully just finished reading. This version is a bit less than 30,000 words — half the length — because of something I realized about you and I while writing the first version.
You’re so much more likely to succeed and thrive than I was giving you credit for in that first discarded draft.
That is what I want for you: thriving success; using your business as a lever to enable a growing, rewarding, thriving, interesting life. My personality tends to surround dreams and goals with a thick layer of anxiety about de-risking the pursuit of those things. The first draft of this book was probably about 20 to 30 thousand words of useful guidance and 30 to 40 thousand words of anxiety-driven “watch out for this!” details and caveats and… well, let’s just call it friction that would have stood in the way of you implementing a very good idea — specialization — in your business.
You’re so much more capable and creative than I was giving you credit for in that first friction-laden draft. This version has, I hope, given you the essence of the ideas and models you need to transform your business without any un-needed cruft or helicopter-parenting-style coddling.
These ideas are quite simple, but powerful.
1: We will run into a ceiling on our ability to earn visibility and trust. This will create a ceiling on the opportunities we have access to.
2: Specialization is choosing and leveraging a beachhead to break through this ceiling. Beachheads are an important, but temporary, part of a larger strategy.
3: With specialization, strive to decide well, but make sure you implement even better than you decide. To paraphrase Drucker, implementation eats decision making for breakfast.
4: Know thine enemy. The Fear is the feeling of exceeding your comfort zone disguised as doubt about your decision making ability.
5: Marketing is how you earn new levels of visibility and trust. It is also how you initiate conversations and make enough memories in the market that hearing your name creates a warm, trust-ey feeling among members of the market.
Sail on, you bold entrepreneurial expert!!!
Shine on you crazy diamond.
How will you create value for your future clients?
1: At this time, virtualization was generally a capability you bought separately from an operating system via a product like VMWare. It was a big deal that Microsoft was turning this capability into a feature that just came along with the operating system.
2: While being interviewed for a podcast recently, I realized that the practice of thinking in terms of beachheads and the practice of shipping quickly even in the face of good reasons to ship more slowly have been very helpful practices for me. I need to think and write about this more.
3: The moment I realized I don’t have to finish reading books that I started reading was one of the most liberating in my life. That’s not really what I’m talking about here, though. I’m talking about writing a book that is easy enough to read and pulls the reader forward in a way that makes it likely they’ll read most or all of the way through rather than writing a book that is oppressive in its tone and weight.