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'Don’t Be Afraid' Hero's Journey with Maik Schmidt

April 22, 2020

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Maik Schmidt

This month we met with PragProg author, Maik Schmidt, to discuss writing, speaking, software development, and hardware. If you’re at all considering starting a writing career of your own, you owe it to yourself to read Maik’s story first.

On becoming an author…

If you believe in fate, you might just say that it was Maik’s destiny to write with PragProg.

Long before he was authoring books, Maik was buying them…lots of them. So when he learned that you could get paid and get free books by writing book reviews for magazines, he decided to give it a shot.

As luck would have it, one of Maik’s earliest reviews was for the Pragmatic Starter Kit, Volumes 1 and 2. Maik wrote his review, got paid, and got his free books. Then he got hooked.

Even after writing three- to four-page articles for a while, Maik still wasn’t thinking about writing books. That’s when fate struck again.

An American company based in Dallas, Texas, bought the company Maik was working for in Germany. And when he was asked to travel to the corporate headquarters for a meeting, his first thought was, “That’s where Dave Thomas lives!”

After getting settled into his hotel room, Maik wrote Dave an email introducing himself. Within an hour Dave wrote back and invited Maik to go to a local tech meetup with him the following day. In Maik’s own words, “It was such a great day!”

During their time together Dave asked Maik whether he’d consider writing a book about Ruby for the Pragmatic Bookshelf. Maik flew home, thought it over, and decided, “Why not?”

And, one proposal and several revisions later, Maik had a contract to write his very first book, Enterprise Integration with Ruby.

On challenges and rewards…

Maik is one of those rare authors who say they’ve never experienced writer’s block. For Maik, there’s not a lot of difference between writing prose, textbooks, and code. As he says, “It all requires a certain mindset, some flow…and some discipline.”

According to Maik, the real challenge is something else altogether: “Your personal circumstances affect your writing a lot. How much time do you have to write a book? How much quiet time do you have to write? How much time do you have for experiments?”

Maik also points out that a book’s subject matter itself can present some unique obstacles.

When Maik was writing Arduino: A Quick-Start Guide one of his biggest challenges was just getting the hardware he needed. Sometimes he couldn’t get it quickly enough, and other times he couldn’t get it all.

Interestingly, as a non-native English speaker, you might assume that the language barrier is Maik’s biggest hurdle. However, he thinks it’s an advantage that helps him write more clearly. “I don’t even have a chance in many cases to come up with something that is complicated, because it’s not my native language,” he explains.

As for Maik’s advice to other authors considering writing a book in a foreign language, he simply says, “Don’t be afraid. If you have something to say…you’ll be able to say it.” Plus, Maik says the rewards are well worth the effort.

According to Maik, being a published author means invitations to attend conferences and give keynotes as well as beneficial content for your CV. But the most rewarding things for Maik are all the positive feedback and helping people “avoid the pain of learning by themselves."

On career and beyond…

Maik is a software developer and architect, a public speaker, and an author, and he says that writing is what helps him do it all better.

“Writing helps me to think clearly about a lot of the stuff that I’m working with on a day-to-day basis,” Maik explains. “It also helps me to find new ideas because of the research that you automatically do when writing about a topic.”

Or, put another way, Maik says that writing helps you see the negative space around a topic to uncover what it is that you don’t know.

We’re extremely proud to count Maik as one of our authors and friends, and we’re flattered that he calls our publishing process and tools a “developer’s dream.” But, we’re truly moved by what he says about the people here.

“Every editor I’ve worked with [at PragProg] was awesome personally, and they were all also on a very high professional level…I would have had to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in writing courses to get what I got from them.”

Maik calls it a “great coincidence” that Andy and Dave decided to start a publishing company right around the time that he decided to start writing. We ask coincidence…or fate?

Now that you know his story, complete your collection of Maik’s titles today!

Then, start or continue your own author journey by sharing your latest book idea with us.

You Could Be a Published Author

Is there a tech topic you are deeply passionate about and want to share with the rest of us? You could become a published Pragmatic Bookshelf author! Take a look at our page for details, including our 50% royalty (yes, for real!) and world-class development editors.

Upcoming Author Appearances

  • 2020-04-29 Adam Tornhill,
    Chicago, USA
  • 2020-04-30 Adam Tornhill,
    Chicago, USA
  • 2020-05-14 Alex Miller,
    Gateway JUG, St. Louis
  • 2020-05-14 Johanna Rothman,
    Agile Africa webinar
  • 2020-05-30 Jeff Langr,
    Mob Programming Conference 2020, Boston, MA, US
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