How I Write: Windows 11 Field Guide (Premium)

I spent the entire 4th of July long weekend working on the Windows 11 Field Guide. And I mean that quite literally: I had expected to get some other work done, as I always do over weekends. But the book, suddenly, is consuming my time. And my life.
And that’s a good thing.
As I’ve remarked to Brad every so often, there’s an interesting dynamic with writing where you enter a zone of sorts---what Microsoft excruciatingly called “being in the flow”---and lose track of the outside world. The minutes turn into hours and then into several hours. You forget to eat. You forget to get up. And in Brad’s case, you forget you have a podcast to record: once a week or so, these days, Brad will ping me at 9:00 am on a Friday to record First Ring Daily and I’m so consumed with whatever I’m writing that I had temporarily forgotten that we do the same thing literally every workday at literally the same time.
But the Windows 11 Field Guide has been, until recently, a slow burn with a strange history. When Microsoft announced Windows 11 last summer, I immediately announced that I’d be writing this book. And given my long history of writing books---roughly 30 in all, the last several being self-published---I had no doubts about being able to do this.
What I did lack, back in mid-2021, was any interest or excitement about the topic. And that’s weird for me, given my also-long history of writing professionally about Windows. I weathered the bad---Longhorn/Vista---and the terrible---Windows 8---but there was something strangely off-putting about Windows 11. I’ve always liked the new look and feel, and even the initial version had a few neat new features, like Snap Layouts. But most of it just felt half-assed.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that while Windows 11 isn’t as big a problem as Vista or Windows 8, and won’t damage Windows as those releases did, it has a far more insidious problem, a kind of rot on the inside. Vista and Windows 8 were terrible, for sure, but the leadership and teams that created those releases at least cared, they were trying push the platform forward. We can’t say that for Windows 11: this team, this leadership, isn’t ambitious enough to do any damage, let alone drive real change. There’s a lot of lip service to design and details mattering, but you can’t tell no one really cares. And that, I think, is what wore on me the most, especially upfront. Microsoft has never announced a major new release of Windows and then released it just three months later. I mean, think about it.
I’ve perhaps overthought it. But I did plod along for months trying to make sense of the Windows 11 Field Guide. And while I had initially (sort of) joked that the book, like Windows 11 itself, would be released early and in an incomplete form, especially at first, I eventually decided that I wanted this book to be something more than just another update to the existing book, the Windows 10 Field Guide. I wanted it to be n...

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