A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, Unsecurity: Information security is failing. Breaches are epidemic. How can we fix this broken industry?
This is the sixth article in the series. The others:
See here for the full list of articles, including those that are yet to be written for this series.
The second week in Cancun was infinitely better than the first. The second week officially started with the arrival of my wife and daughter. They were coming to spend time with me and enjoy some of the Cancun sun. My wife had a spare laptop power cord in hand, so I was finally back in full service! After writing the first 25 pages of the book on an iPhone, it was such a relief.
It’s Saturday, and the alarm was set for 5:00am. The plan was to write all day at corner table in the resort lobby. I chose this table because it was off in a quiet corner, it was just the right height, and the chairs were comfortable. I was pumped! Last week it felt like this day was never going to come.
One thing I did a few days ago, maybe Thursday, was set goals. I also wanted to set some writing time structure that I could follow. My goal was to write 3,000 words/day and adjust as I went. This would equate to about 12 pages/day, and this seemed like a reasonable goal starting out. The structure I would follow would be 50 minutes on, followed by 10 minutes off, and I would not stop any earlier than 3pm. I had already done a lot of research for the book, so my day would be all a go for writing!
My first ever full writing day ended at 3:45pm. I hadn’t eaten anything, but I didn’t even notice my hunger until I stopped for the day. Final results; 2,732 words, or about one and a half chapters. It felt like a productive day, and it felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. Finally, something got done!
I spent the rest of day with family. Great day.
The Coffee Club
Sunday started with the same goal and the same approach as the day before. Writing started at 5am sharp. Each writing session would be 50 minutes, just as it was the day before. As I was starting the third writing session of the day, two old guys came and sat at my table, one on my left and the other on my right. Awkward. I struggled a little to maintain focus, and did my best to ignore them. These guys obviously knew each other and they began a (loud) conversation like I wasn’t there, even though I was in between them. Ten minutes later, another old guy shows up and takes his seat at the table. The conversation amongst the old men continues.
I’m doing my best to stay in the zone, but my bladder starts screaming for some relief, so I had to stop for a quick bathroom break. After relieving myself, I walk back to my writing spot when I notice that there’s a problem. This isn’t my spot anymore. There are now eight or nine old men sitting all around the table! I sit down, but I’m cramped. I struggled through the rest of the writing session, and took a break outside. I’m flustered and irritated by these rude old men. I’ll just need to fight on and keep writing. It’s the only comfortable spot around here.
Three quarters of the way through the next writing session, the old men begin to disperse. Before long, I’m alone at my table again. Awesome! During the next break, I reflect on the awkward experience, and convince myself that it must have been some kind of Sunday morning gathering. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be different, back to normal. The second day was a little better than the first in terms of the number of words written, 3,012. I was determined to hit my goal, and I was getting better at writing too.
Monday comes, and the same old man experience. The first five minutes with these guys were frustrating. I was actually angry. Today was different though. Before long, I started listening to their conversations, and they even addressed me a couple of times. Before they left, I had introduced myself to them all, and I was actually starting to warm up to these guys. Monday was a good writing day, but I have to admit I was looking forward to seeing the guys tomorrow.
Tuesday came, and so did the old men. These guys meet each morning for their coffee club and I was in their territory. I was happy to see them, and I think they were happy to see me too. Rather than trying to write anything, I closed my laptop and fully engaged in conversations. I’m not good with names, but there were two guys that I immediately hit it off with, Bob and Lynn. Bob was a dentist for 36 years in a small Missouri town. Lynn owns a farm that is the largest producer of gladiolas in the United States. All these guys were retired and spend some number of winter weeks in Cancun each year.
Bob asked me what I was doing with my laptop, working. When I told him that I was working on a book, he seemed genuinely interested. He asked me what I was writing about, and I told him that I was writing about information security. The look on his face was priceless, partially because it’s Bob and partially because he had no idea what I was talking about. I did my best to explain, but I could tell it was going to take a while. He wanted to know more, but we didn’t have the time.
This is when I realized what the second book would be. You know, the one I’m writing right now. This thought at the time was crazy because I hadn’t even written half my first book before I’m thinking about the second one. The second book would be titled “Information Security for Normal People”, or something similar. Normal people are people like Bob. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. How sad would it be for a wonderful, salt of the earth, all-around good guy to lose everything to some jackass attacker? Yes, I have to write this second book. Shelve it for now.
As the week progressed, my relationship with the coffee club deepened. We got to know each other pretty well. It didn’t let it take away from writing progress because I planned it each day now. When it came time for me to leave for home, we said our good-byes, and I promised them I would be back again next year.
The second week went fast, much faster than the first. I spent at least 60 hours at the keyboard, and still found time to become part of a coffee club and make great memories with my wife and daughter. The week produced a total of 21,672 words. If I would have avoided the week one drama, I think I could have had 45,000 words. Oh well, at this point I still have a month and a half to finish up the draft. I’ll just need to do it at home.
Lessons from Cancun:
- Prepare much better. There was no excuse for leaving my laptop cord behind. If you’re going somewhere to write, pack well and prepare for contingencies.
- Goal setting is important. There were days where I wanted to quit for the day, but I was short of my goal. I would not allow myself to quit on a couple of days, because of my goal.
- Segmented writing works well for me. The 50 minutes of focused writing followed by a 10 minute break was a good approach. It forced some discipline into my writing and inserted healthy breaks.
- Don’t try to force through distractions. If I don’t want distractions, go somewhere quiet. If I’m distracted, and I don’t want to go somewhere else, stop writing. It saves me frustration and I made some great new friends.
That’s it for the two-week Cancun writing trip. I’m actually starting to feel like a writer at this point in the process, and I’m excited to write at home or in my office.