Writing a Textbook: the hardest thing I have ever done.
Over the years I have written several hundred cosmetic surgery journal articles, text book chapters and general publication articles. Over this time I have edited three textbooks and contributed 18 chapters to other author’s textbooks.
Last September, I was asked to write a textbook on cosmetic facial surgery by Elsevier which is one of the largest publishers of medical textbooks in the world. This was quite an honor and I explained that I know some of the best surgeons in the world to contribute chapters. To my amazement and honor, Elsevier informed me that they wanted a single author textbook. Ouch! Again, a great honor, but I knew that this would be a task of awesome proportion. And it was!
Last October I started writing a comprehensive textbook that would encompass the most contemporary cosmetic facial procedures. My goal was to write an “atlas” type text that would describe each procedure in step by step detail accompanied by actual intraoperative photographs. I wanted this text to be not only an instructional book, but also be able to guide surgeons through the step by step of each procedure. My average chapter is ten thousand words and one hundred pictures, but some of the larger chapters like facelift and laser grew to 55,000 words and 250 images. I was given a July deadline and finished at 11:48 on June 30th! This was the hardest thing I ever did for numerous reasons. First of all, I wrote every word off the top of my head. When you write an instructional text, there is no room for error or missteps, so everything has to be accurate. I wrote several hours every day. On several days I wrote over 11 hours and one Sunday I typed for 13 hours with several breaks. I wrote on airplanes, on trips where I was a passenger in the car, on my father’s couch at Christmas, and even typed two chapters on my iPhone while at a beach vacation. I simply wrote and wrote and wrote every day. My wife has been a “text widow” for the last 9 months, but has been unbelievably supportive. Having completed 16 chapters and thousands of photographs, I am now editing video for the DVD that accompanies the textbook. This has been another load of work.
I truly want this book to be my “Opus” and want to leave behind something that not only documented my cumulative cosmetic surgery experience, but something that could serve to teach other surgeons how to perform these wonderful cosmetic operations. I wanted to be able to save novice surgeons some of the hard learned lessons of cosmetic surgery and to distill the knowledge to a very understandable level. To that end, I believe I have accomplished my goal.
There is still a lot of work to be done finishing the videos and then there will be the proofing all the chapters which is very difficult. It is very hard to have to go back and reread all the material that you write! My fingers are sore from typing, and I have to really be conscious about my posture as hunching over a computer all this time can make someone a hunchback. I feel that I have accomplished something that only a handful of surgeons ever get to do. The book started out as 600 pages then went to 800 pages and I am hoping the publisher will allow a lot more than that because I have sent them much more. I am not sure if it will all fit in a single volume. May take two.
Writing this textbook is the hardest thing I have ever done!
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