Jaime Levy Insantity

2014: The Year of Quiet Insanity Writing a UX Book

By December 31, 2014 July 31st, 2016 No Comments

First off, thank you 2014. It has been a kooky year so I thought a blog post would be a good place to reflect on what went down. In a nutshell, I spent the bulk of my time writing a book called “UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Products that People Want“ for O’Reilly Media (June, 2015). This week I completed the first draft of the entire darn manuscript.

It was for sure the hardest thing that I have ever done. It was sometimes brutal, isolating, and terrifying. Brutal because I had to learn how to write a book while I was writing a book. Isolating because for the most part, I had very little contact with the outside world. I was not dealing with clients or co-workers talking about ongoing UX projects. Instead I was sitting alone quietly for thousands of hours systematically knocking out paragraphs. And it was terrifying because of the ongoing risk.

All year I have constantly questioned my own sanity and whether I would be able to finish the manuscript on deadline. How dare I sit in the library for months going into debt while I have a child to support? How dare I think that I have something new and worthy to say that wasn’t covered in the thousands of other user experience and pop business books out there in the marketplace? It turns out that writing a book is just like starting a start-up. You have to be totally okay with uncertainty.

the magic writingchairI Initially tried to write from home, but I couldn’t stay focused. Next I tried writing at various public libraries. I soon discovered that most libraries (in LA & NYC) are overrun by homeless people who have no other safe place to go. Some libraries kept their bathrooms locked; others hired security guards. What I wanted was to be surrounded by other writers and researchers who looked like they were doing something hard. That was how I ended up in this chair (photo on left) at Caltech in Pasadena. I sat in their gorgeous library amongst doctoral students all silently stewing in algorithms and white papers.  Thank you Caltech for providing me with a free, tranquil and stimulating environment.

Hence, I’m so ready for 2015. I can start consulting again and bringing home the bacon. I also have two months to fine-tune the chapters based on feedback from editors, subject matter experts and ANYBODY who bought or buys the pre-released eBook in its current “raw and unedited” state (you get the final eBook when it’s done, of course).

Now I can drink the Kool-Aid of Lean publishing (releasing product early and often) while ironically finalizing a book mashing up the practices of Lean Startup and the User Experience Discovery Phase. So if you have any strategy-centric insights or subject matter expertise, please loop back at me with your feedback @JaimeRLevy.

Finally, I  want to mention a few things I’m doing in the upcoming months:

  1. On January 15th, I start teaching a new course  called “User Experience Design and Strategy” at the University of Southern California.  It is being offered by Viterbi’s Graduate School of Engineering, but is open to all USC students.
  2. On February 4th, I’m doing an O’reilly Webcast where I will explain “What the Hell is UX Strategy?!”.Please sign up and join in the conversation. It’s free.
  3. On March 16th, I will be in Brussels, Belgium to do a reading during the opening celebration of an art exhibition at IMAL focused on the era of early electronic publishing. My floppy disk magazines (made in HyperCard and Director) will be playing and accessible along with hundreds of other works made in the early 90s by digital artists worldwide. Stay tuned here, especially if you are based in Europe and can come see the show.

It’s now that time for us to take one big brave leap forward together. I wish you a happy, prosperous, and mostly sane New Year! Here’s to 2015!

– Jaime Levy / JLR Interactive