One of the most impactful books that I read this year was The Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner.
I believe that great books arrive in a reader’s life at the right time to inspire actions. Some books are so good that they do this for entire generations. Other books may only touch a few readers, but their words resonate in a way that justifies the time spent writing them.
For me, Jordan’s book came at a time when I needed to read it. He details the creative process of making a product that is widely regarded as one of the most successful video games of all time. He was just out of college when he started working on Prince of Persia (affectionately referred to as PoP).
What makes this book stand out is that it presents the creative process honestly. The book is not a standard memoir — instead, it’s a collection of journals that Jordan kept throughout the process. Unaffected by the prejudices of time or memory, they paint a realistic picture of what it’s like to be 22 with a vision for the future.
At the time, video games were still a niche topic. The Apple II had been in production for several years, and Jordan consistently refers to his fear that “the bottom would fall out of the market” — essentially, that video games would cease to exist.
We know now that this fear was unfounded, but because the book is a compilation of journals, we’re able to experience the world through Jordan’s eyes then, rather than the swaggering bravado painted by most authors in hindsight.
If great books inspire action, then Jordan’s memoir is a great book. Since reading it, I’ve felt drawn to my own journals in a way that feels protective. I write in them not only for myself, but for the people who may read them someday. And since I don’t know how things will turn out, there’s no point in being anything but honest.
Most writers, myself included, try to capture their intellectual exhaust in a way that they can immediately commercialize. This book reminded me that there is value in writing for the sake of the process.
Your audience may not exist yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write for them today.