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Author Charles Petzold on Deadlines and Letting Go

Author Charles Petzold discussing our forthcoming book, The Annotated Turing:

In an ideal imaginary world, a book is finished only when the author is fully satisfied that every word and comma is perfect. In the real world, that doesn’t work. The only way books ever get finished is with the imposition of a deadline — sometimes from the author him or her self, but most often from a publisher.

This is a good thing. The deadline requires much focused work to drive the book into a completed state. It is one of my fears about online publishing that books will never be finished — that they will exist forever in some slippery amorphous state, forever demanding that they be twiddled and tweaked, enslaving the author in a never-ending cycle of continual revision.

The finality of publication is ultimately liberating. The author is given permission to let go, but more importantly, to move on. This book must be finished and left to live on its own because there are many other books that need to be written.

  • l.m.orchard

    I’ve run into this exact problem a lot while working with online marketing versus print. When a design or a brochure goes to the presses, it’s DONE. When a web site rolls out, it sometimes can just sort of continue wobbling along getting endless tweaks.

    To actually maintain any sort of sanity, you have to emulate the accidental physical constraints of a shipped product through intentional discipline and effective management of expectations.

  • l.m.orchard

    (Which, of course, can be harder said than done.)