Why I Wrote Message Not Received

Exploring my motivations for writing the new book.

MNR_squareThe motivations of creative types have always fascinated me.

I love and frequently watch in-depth interviews with actors, filmmakers, musicians, and authors about their creative processes. The best ones offer a great deal of honest insight into how they work. After 30 or 60 minutes, you learn how distinct scenes, songs, and overarching concepts developed and ultimately came together into a cohesive whole.

For example, I used to enjoy the VH1 Classic show Classic Albums, particularly the episodes about Dark Side of the Moon and two particularly enduring Rush records.

Think of these interviews as incredibly revealing windows, the antitheses of vacuous, link bait-ridden Buzzfeed and Gawker articles such as “The 5 Ways to Do X” or “The 7 Mistakes to Avoid Y.”

Why does a writer sit down at a keyboard and start pecking away?

It’s folly to claim that an anonymous first-time author of a children’s book operates in the same manner as a serial author like James Patterson or a CEO. Put differently, there’s no single reason for writing a book; motivations, subjects, and authors run the gamut. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of reasons:

  • Achieving a life goal.
  • Curiosity (read: Could I pull it off?)
  • Enjoyment of the writing process.
  • A publisher approached the person because of his or her “platform”, although this is exceptional. (See Gary V’s book deal.)
  • A desire to increase one’s professional credibility.
  • The need to fulfill a multi-book publishing contract.
  • Product promotion. (See large companies with independent presses and well-funded startups.)
  • Vanity. In some cases, a rock star knows that his or her book will sell irrespective of its quality and message. The book need not be appreciably different than previous books. And let’s not excoriate authors here. To be fair, many actors, musicians, and artists follow the same playbook.)
  • The need to play against type (read: to do something completely different).
  • The need to feed the beast. (That’s just what a writer does.)
  • Catharsis.
  • Some combination of the above.

Why did this writer sit down at a keyboard and start pecking away?

My own writing motivations don’t fall neatly into a single box—and they never have. Slightly and sometimes entirely different reasons have motivated me to write each of my books with one exception. I’ve said many times that I’m a sponge. Eventually, my brain gets full and I need to “squeeze” it. That squeeze eventually becomes a full-length book.

Business communication is broken—and has been for a long time.

The genesis of Message Not Received was a problem I’ve seen throughout my entire professional career: Business communication is fundamentally broken—and has been for a long time. The problem is anything but insignificant. On the contrary, it is extremely pervasive, costly, and (worst of all) exacerbating. Spend a day in your typical corporate environment and you’ll understand what I mean.

But so what? What if the problem could not be solved? What if, as many people erroneously believe, there are no suitable replacements for buzzwords and e-mail?

Nonsense.

I have long rejected the notion that business communication needs to be so damn vexing. Words should convey, not confuse. Direct, clear, simple, and straightforward communication is almost always the most effective way to go. Beyond that, engaging in faux “conversations” over e-mail isn’t just inefficient; it’s counterproductive.

Simon Says

In short, it was time for me to put up or shut up. I was unaware of an existing book that approached the issue with the same multi-faceted lens. Message Not Received sits at the intersection of language, communication, business, and technology. I simply don’t know how to write a book about a single subject in isolation.

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