Working on non-fiction for the past few months. The non-fiction process involves creating a very detailed outline, writing, and then responding to technical reviewer comments.

Each step involves corrections and comments and revisions.

Which means each step pays a small emotional tax. For example, I thought the outline was good, but there are changes I'm asked to make.

In order to provide a detailed outline, I had to actually write a fair amount of content. Some of which I must now discard and rewrite.

"Wait," you ask. "Why write content when you should only be outlining?"

Details matter. It often seems like the topics are covered in a "build-up-from-the-fundamentals" order. Then, when you start looking at the details for each topic, you find yet another dependency that requires a preliminary section or changes the order.

For some subjects there aren't a clear set of Peano axioms that define arithmetic. Or if there are, I don't know them. Or, if I do know them, I don't want to try and present them because it's the wrong level of detail. In all of these cases, I have to dig into the details before I'm sure the outline is right.

And, then, we have to debate the outline. Which requires some emotional work to admit that it's not as good as I thought it might have been.

"Of course," you say. "You shouldn't have an emotional investment in your work."

Really?

Really?

It's just a pile of random words that I don't really care about?

No. It's not random. I worked on it. It's not a giant piece of my life, but it is some of my life. I thought I did a good job. And now I find that I didn't.

There's no sense in trying to spin that other than "fix the mistake I made."

The cost isn't huge, but it's also not zero.

Consequences

The tiny emotional tax means I "waste" time doom scrolling through Twitter and reading long articles on irrelevant subjects. It means writing software recreationally just to cleanse my brain from "ugh, another complaint."

It's not a true "waste" but it often feels that way.

It's really an emotional break.

But.

My years of Capitalism taught me to work 40 hours each week without taking any visible breaks. Nose to the grindstone. Shoulder to the wheel.

The emotional tax of responding to review comments includes a bonus emotional tax because I'm "slacking" instead of "writing."


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