Certainty by Construction Progress Report 9

The following is a progress report for Certainty by Construction, a new book I’m writing on learning and effectively wielding Agda. Writing a book is a tedious and demoralizing process, so if this is the sort of thing you’re excited about, please do let me know!

It is now the wee hours of Sept 2, and it’s safe to say I did not make the deadline. The book is not yet finished come hell or high water. Damn. Here’s the state of the world:

  • Everything up to page 203/296 has been aggressively edited, in terms of prose, code, general presentation, and overall topic order. There are still a few TODOs to write chapter summaries, but those aren’t the end of the world if they don’t happen.
  • It’s now possible to build semi-readable epubs. Needing to run everything through the Agda compiler makes build pipelines surprisingly hard, but I think this should only require a couple of hours to get it into a good place.
  • I have commissioned a contest of potential covers for the book; no results yet, but I expect to to have some things to look at by the end of this week.
  • Since my last update, I realized I had accidentally lost the chapter on ring solving when doing my big refactor. I’ve since found it, but it’s no longer particularly motivated and is rather out of place, so I think it’s going to get cut. Kill your darlings and all that.

All in all, I’m bummed I didn’t make the deadline, but the quality of the book is exponentially better, so I think it’s a worthwhile trade. I’ve got three/four chapters left to edit (depending on if ring solving gets cut), and I need to write a closing chapter to make the end less jarring.

On a personal note, although the book is much longer in content than my other books, it’s packed much tighter and thus is going to be physically smaller when I get it printed. For some reason that is holding a lot of space in my head right now, and steering me away from cutting too much. I suppose I shouldn’t fret too much; there’s still an index and glossary I need to add which will probably add a bit of length. Also I know this doesn’t matter, but I care about it nevertheless.

So why didn’t I get this done on time? The reason seems to be just that it was too ambitious a goal. I definitely underestimated the amount of polish required here. This month I put 65 hours of honest-to-goodness work into the book, which if you measure in terms of the 2.9h average hours of work that an officer worker does in a day is more than a full time job. It’s very late and I don’t know if that makes sense but I think it might.

Anyway, here’s the plan going forwards—I’ve got some of this week to work on the book before getting married and starting grad school. The goal is to just keep on at this pace for as long as I possibly can until I die or real life gets in the way. It sucks and I’m exhausted and would like to be finished with this thing, but it’s not done with me yet. And so we go on.

But maybe I’ll take tomorrow off because I need to sort out getting married, and I don’t think this kind of extreme focus is good for my mental health. It’s a bit of a balancing act though, because life is only going to get more busy after next week.

Sorry for the bleak trail off here. I should go to bed.