On Friday the 23rd June, at 17:27, I sent in the next version of our book for review!
At this point maybe a recap would be a good idea.
At the Institution of Structural Engineers dinner, on the 5th November 2021, I was listening to engineers discuss all of these different projects, and the need to do things differently, and a word kept popping up, regenerative. At that time I hadn’t really thought much about it. But it seemed important so I decided someone needed to write a book on it. And that someone was me and my friend Oli.
So at the start of January 2022, having completed a term of teaching, got past all the marking, and before the next term teaching kicked off, I formally started my adventure into regenerative design.
By February we had written a book proposal and submitted it to a publisher. At some point in March we heard back from the publisher that our book proposal had been accepted, we were on, all we needed to do now was write a book!
So in June and July of 2022, once the dust had settled on another year of teaching, we wrote a book on regenerative design. That book was all about our own journey into learning about the subject. The aim was to enable the reader to come on that journey with us.
Following the issue of the draft we waited, with baited breath, for the reviewer comments. Eventually they started trickling in. Some loved it, others were not so sure. The main criticism was around the tone – the lack of confidence.
Between September and December (which is when my teaching load is heaviest) Oli and I carried on researching the content. We dug deeper into the subject. And I started a process of deep reflection. One of the outcomes of the process was a realisation that I have been acting in a regenerative way, on some of the projects I worked on (but most definitely not all), the content I had shared through teaching and writing, the decisions I made in my personal life. And I captured some of these as longer case studies.
And so, in January 2023, I spent a week recutting the book. I removed 15,000 words of content (actually quite a bit more), I added some long case studies. I made the book more confident, gone was the learning journey, and in its place was a more decisive description of what regenerative design was.
So at the end of January 2023 we sent out the second draft of the book and waited for feedback. Feedback came in, and it was agreed we had made some huge steps forward, but there was still more work to be done. So we had a workshop at the end of March to resolve what the outstanding issues were and plan a way forward.
Following the meeting it was clear that the main issues were:
- A lack of international case studies (as outlined in last month’s blog post)
- The content was over reliant on other texts, it assumed you had read books like “Thinking in Systems”, “Flourish” and even, the foundational “Designing Regenerative Cultures”.
- The focus of the book should change, the old title was “Regenerative Design for Structural Engineers”, the new title is “The Regenerative Structural Engineer”.
So we went away, rather than tweak around the corners adding a few sentences of explanation and a few other case studies, Oli went and reviewed the entire content, creating a giant table of ideas which he put up on his wall. For the second draft I had done the majority of the work, this time Oli did the heavy lifting. The aim, to create a book which explains the key concepts of regenerative practice, with all that entails, without relying on referring to other texts. My role was four fold. It was to help Oli formulate the structure of the chapters, to review and edit all of the text, to create illustrations/diagrams for the text and to source and write the international case studies (we now have 6 short studies (one photo with a paragraph of text) and 3 long case studies (which span multiple pages with a large amount of detailed information)).
The book now focuses on how to be a regenerative practitioner (in this case structural engineer) and is written with a clearer and more definitive tone (gone are all the sentences with phrases like “this might not be right, but…”). And the book is much, much better for it.
We don’t know what will happen next. The reviewers have been given a couple of weeks to turn round comments, hopefully we will then be making minor changes but you never know.
So that’s the last 18 months in a nutshell!
I have reflected on the process, why have we had to produce so many drafts? For the three previous books, once it was written, there was a phase of correcting and updating, but the final draft looked and felt the same as the first. Here, the difference between the first and last draft is significant, in terms of tone, confidence, and clarity. Part of me feels like maybe having to send in three drafts (to date) is a failure. But then I think about the different nature of the books. The others were all “how to” books. Capturing a process I had done many times in industry as a practicing engineer. This book is different. It is actually the outcome of research. The research occurred as we wrote the book, it was an attempt to answer the question “how can structural engineers be regenerative?” As with much research the question changed as we dug deeper and spent more time exploring the space. The feedback was both stylistic, but also challenged us to keep pushing into the subject to try and both ask the right question and articulate a tenable answer. As a result the book is nothing like any of the other books I have written before.
Which is to say, whilst I hoped to write it in a year, in reality taking longer has hopefully made it much richer. And whilst I often felt frustrated by the feedback, the challenge it brought has hopefully not just led to a better book, but one which enables engineers to do things differently.
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