So today I got good work done. I did the grading that I absolutely had to complete; I prepped for my classes; I made good progress on the book manuscript (although I do have the final two chapters left to slog through, but I was too fucking mentally exhausted to make the final push tonight). And I made chili, and I got dishes done, and I read some more of Eat Pray Love, which I'm enjoying (though I'll have more to say in an upcoming post when I've finished). I've been intermittently reading it, and my soundtrack throughout the day has been Sinead's Theology. Oh, and I went into the office and dealt with some correspondence and updated my CV. So yes, it was a productive day.
But I want to talk about how I'm feeling about the book. I really do see it as nearly finished now. And the thing is, I should be happy about that. And in a lot of ways I am. But I'm also kind of scared. I don't really know what I'll do when the book is no longer this thing hanging around in my life. Remember: this book emerges from my dissertation. This means I've been sitting with these ideas, with these texts, for approximately 7 years. As much as I don't want to sit with these books and these authors anymore, and as much as I see the project as a whole now, and as I see what little I have left to do as things that will lead to completion - and satisfactory completion - I also feel... anxious? And I feel a sense of impending loss. And I also feel... I don't know. I feel on the one hand like it's great that this thing I've done will be published. I really do think that it contributes to the field in a way that is useful. I really do think that I've accomplished the only thing that makes scholarship in my field meaningful to me, which is to use scholarship to make it possible to see literature in a different way. But I also wonder: what if nobody else thinks that my book accomplishes that? What if people don't think it's interesting? What if they don't think it's smart? What if it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever?
I don't think I had these anxieties when I was finishing the dissertation. I never expected my dissertation to do much other than to help *me* to think about things more deeply. I really never thought anybody would or should bother reading the thing. And while the dissertation was a very solid starting point for the book, and I retain the same structure and the heart of what I have to say remains the same, I've done a lot to flesh the thing out. And so when I was dissertating, I was able to save any ambitions I had about making a contribution for the transformation of it into the book. I always new I wanted it to be a book, but somehow I was able to table what that meant (to me, and just generally) during the process of dissertating. Now, I can't table all of the anxieties that go along with making the thing public. And that's scary.
There's also the fact that I don't know, even with all of the time and energy I've put into this project, this project that has pretty much no meaning in terms of my ability to successfully get tenure at my current institution, if there was any point to turning this into a book. Will this book make any difference in my marketability? Will it make any positive difference in my reputation? And if it doesn't, then why did it matter so much to me to do it? I mean, it's being put out by a decent press, but it's not like it's some uber-awesome-university-press. And what if that means that ultimately all of my work will land me in exactly the same place that I would have been in had I not made this huge effort? What's the point of it all, in a practical sense?
I suppose part of all of what I'm feeling right now might just have to do with my tendency to try to stave off disappointment. I don't want to think that just because I've got this book thing happening that it means that anything in my life is necessarily going to change as a result. I don't want to assume that this will make some sort of radical difference in terms of job prospects or in terms of my stature within this profession. There are a lot of people in this world with books. And some of those books suck. And mine might be one of those. I don't think it is, but I suspect those people whose books I think suck don't think that their books suck either. Maybe that's the thing: I think everybody thinks that their dissertation sucks on some level. I'm not sure that anybody who writes a book that gets a publisher thinks that it sucks. And so I don't want to have some sort of crazy delusions of grandeur as a result of the fact that I'm doing this thing and that it's almost done.
And I know it's stupid, but I'm wondering who I'll be once the thing is finally and completely finished in December. Seven years is a long time to sit with any set of ideas. And finishing means that I'm not going to have those sitting around and defining me anymore. And so what will I have left when those ideas are sent off into the world?
Blah. I'm being whiny. But those are my thoughts tonight. I suppose the short version of what I'm feeling is deep, deep insecurity. And probably the reason that this bothers me so much is that it's not something I feel all that often. So I just need to suck it up and get on with it. There's no way to know the future: how the book will be received, how the book will affect my chances on the market, how I'll replace the book in my life when the time comes for that. So I need to stop trying to anticipate and project and just enjoy the final months of this process as much as is possible.
2 years ago