Home » Author: Kirsten J. Fisher » Letting Go is Hard to Do.

Letting Go is Hard to Do.

This is my first post about the publishing aspect of the writing process. And its theme is fear. I’m just finishing up my first book and I can’t quite let go. There’s never a point with writing when I can say “yup, that’s perfect. It’s done!” There’s always room for improvement, always the fear you’ve got something wrong, or written it in such a way that readers will interpret it differently than you meant them to. It’s scary.

And once it’s out there, it’s out there. It’s possible no one will read it – and that would be bad. But, it’s possible people will – and that also, at times, seems bad to me. I wrote the book because I had something to say. But, the idea of having my words out there forever in book form (which somehow seems more permanent and public than any journal article I’ve published) is nerve racking, and so I just keep pushing on, never feeling it’s quite done.

I hold the publishing house partly responsible for my hesitancy and static state, my lack of confidence and resolve. Interestingly, although the book was near completion when I submitted the proposal, the publishers gave me a full year to finish it and submit the final manuscript. That means I have no looming deadline (at least until this time next year). And sometimes, for me at least, those deadlines are the motivation necessary to simply let go.

On the day that I was to submit my undergraduate thesis, one of my advisors offered words that have remained with me. Meeting me in a university hallway, he asked if I were done and happy with it. I think I said something to the effect that I wasn’t sure how happy I was with it because there were some areas I could still work to improve, but that it was done if it had to be. His response was that an academic may never be completely happy; submit on the deadline and move on, or we’d always find ourselves never quite done.

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8 Comments

  1. “Submit on the dealine and move on”–good advice, but easier said than done. I often encouraged my students to accept the provisional nature of research, assuring them than knowledge is always evolving, growing, changing, revising itself. Maybe part of academic success it being willing to accept that fact and learn/grow from what we learn later. I’ve never liked the model of knowledge as static. It rarely is.

  2. Kevin Williams says:

    Kirsten, I’m happy to hear that your book will be published …after it is finished, of course.
    Congratulations.
    I’m done.

  3. Abe says:

    I agree about deadlines! I’d much rather have a solid deadline than have too much time to mull it over. I think that’s the hardest part of writing – setting and managing deadlines. Especially since you often rely on yourself to do so. Good experience for you though! 🙂

  4. Self-created deadlines always seem a problem. Hard to set and work towards, and then hard to stick to. Hard to work; hard to stop. 😉

  5. James says:

    Just came across your blog via LinkedIn, hope you don’t mind me adding a belated comment to this post…

    I came across a nice exchange between the philosopher Simon Blackburn and Bernard Williams that you might find helpful, as I did. Blackburn writes: “In the Introduction to Spreading the Word I wrote that in my opinion too few philosophers framed the golden words of Quintilian, the Roman rhetorician, above their desks: ‘Do not write so that you can be understood, but so that you cannot be misunderstood’. On a subsequent occasion Bernard Williams protested to me that this was an unrealistic aim: human obtuseness and perversity is fathomless, and one can always be misunderstood; there may often be deep psychological forces making people determined to misunderstand you.”

    (http://www.phil.cam.ac.uk/%7Eswb24/PAPERS/Allsoulsnight.htm)

    I think Williams may unfortunately be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that Quintilian’s remark is still excellent advice.

    So perhaps writers just cause themselves unnecessary anguish by fretting that, as you put it, you may have written in such a way that readers will interpret it differently than you meant them to. Perhaps there’s no point in fearing the inevitable, or the at least highly likely. Que será será and all that…

    • Thanks James,

      I agree that writing so as not to be misunderstood is a good aim, and probably an unreachable goal. Something we should strive for — and then there’s always the next articles or next book in which to try to clarify, expand upon, defend or retract anything that didn’t quite face the world as we hoped it would.

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