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.