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Calvin's Corner

What I Learned Writing the Book

Writing of the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair was learning experience like I've never had. The book was nearly two years in the making, with days that began at 4:00 AM to get photos, the only quiet time here at Park Tool. It seemed like the writing never stopped, and if you have access to a laptop, it doesn't. Here are just some of things I've learned from the BBB-1.

I learned that writing a book is huge project. The entire process is complex, from just outlining what it will contain, deciding what the title might be, to deciding on how it will be distributed, to finally saying, "Enough! Take it away!"

I learned that I should have had worked a lot harder during those junior high and high school writing classes. Thankfully, I was not left to my own devises entirely for this project. My editor, Doug Shidell, returned my drafts bloodied and battered with changes. It is very humbling to get notes tacked on the end of my work; "Calvin, rewrite this entire section and get it back to me as soon as you can."

I learned that getting your thoughts down on paper of what you think you know about something helps firm the concept in your own mind. Try explaining a task to someone, it helps you gain a deeper understanding of the task.

I learned that I was fortunate to have the help of the many people who email Park Tool looking for technical assistance. Knowing what people are trying to fix on their bikes allowed me to address those issues. Please keep at it, let me know what you are working on, and what stumps you. Email us at info@parktool.com

I learned that arguing can be a good thing. Content, procedures, and text were hammered out on the anvil of often-heated discussions.

I learned it takes a lot of photo shots just to get the one photograph you want. Photographs are important to technical books, and the BBB-1 has a lot of images, all taken by me. I tried not only to show something of interest, but also how you should view it, the "mechanic's eye view" of the component part.

I learned that no matter how careful you are, mistakes are possible. Try to find this one; a picture of what should be a right-hand thread is shown as a left-hand thread. (Thanks to the five people who found error and won a PNT-1 pint glass and a BO-1 bottle opener.)

I learned that writing can be liberating....but only when you are done! At least that is how it was for me. I cannot imagine the pressure and strain that must be felt by full time professional writers. Authors of fiction books, non-fiction books, and technical books all have my admiration. To them all, a poem:

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He know no more that he was poor,
Nor that his fame was dust,
He danced among the dingy days,
And his bequest of wing
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!


    Emily Dickinson