How Not To Make a Book

Side Projects, Guilt, and Useful Distractions

If one fateful night you find yourself downloading Unity and watching a tutorial about making a loathsome version of Flappy Bird with your cat’s face as the main character, then it’s important to note that this is not how you make a book. In fact, the fastest way not to make a book is to make a videogame instead.

That’s where I found myself this week; diving through the Unity docs and learning how to make assets and slapping music into a project, trying to figure out how GameObjects work and how it can all be tied together with scripts in c#. It reminds me of that first electric time of learning something new like InDesign or when HTML and CSS clicked for me as after a few hours it felt like all the potential things I can now make had grown exponentially. Before, in my head, there was a big door labelled MAKE A VIDEO GAME and it was bolted shut with several layers of chains and locks. But after a few hours of clicking around and prototyping, the chains snapped right off and the door burst open.

All that’s stopping me from making a video game, I know now, is time and discipline. That’s liberating; the potential of all these connections I’m threading together here.

After I compiled the game and exported it out of Unity the icon sat calmly on my desktop. I waited a beat before clicking the icon because it felt bigger than publishing a website or an essay or anything else I’ve done before.

Anyway, I started messing around with Unity because I’ve lost steam on the book—and that’s okay! I don’t ever want to see this book as a chore or a part time job and the book will either call to me, or it won’t. Side projects like this should be fun, liberating, and silly. They shouldn’t be a slog and they shouldn’t grind you into a thin paste with anxiety or burden you with feelings of guilt.

And so although I’m trying to get this balance between getting the book done and keeping my mental health in check, I think it’s important to play with side projects instead of work with them. And that’s hard! Because I look at this unfinished book and this now unfinished game and all the unfinished drafts and blog posts and websites and ideas and I have to accept their unfinishedness for the sake of my own happiness.

So learning Unity this week was a useful distraction, as I learned that this book isn’t a quick project I’m going to slam together and physically whither away in the process. This project is supposed to be fun! For me! And if that means I didn’t make any progress with the book this week then I think that’s okay.