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Eating Your Own Dogfood

Programmers have an expression for using the program they are creating, it’s called “Eating Your Own Dogfood” or Dogfooding for short. I was watching Letterman last night and he interviewed Johnny Depp. Depp said that he has never seen a film that he’s been in. He won’t watch himself on screen. He makes the film and then that’s it. Moves on to the next.

That struck me as a bit crazy. How can he evaluate his performances if he never watched them? But then I started to wonder if writers ever pick up their own books and just read them. Like a reader would, not like a writer, looking for mistakes. I must confess, that after a period of time passes, I have picked up my own books and read them just for fun. I still like them. They are exactly the kinds of books that I like to read.

My father designed VHF radios and he was always using them in his car and at his house, field testing them, even after they had been released. He told me that one of the greatest sins of an engineer is to never use the products they design. Whenever I notice an obvious flaw in a product’s design, I wonder if the person who designed it actually used it.

Can fiction be viewed the same way by writers? Can you learn from your novels if they still entertain you years after you wrote them? Has anyone else ever practiced Dogfooding their novels?

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