I’ve finished writing a book. I’d imagine such a sentence is expected to be followed by: “Yeahhhh! Hurray! Wonderful! What a relief! “ Alas, after saying that I finished writing a book, I tend to say: “What a nightmare!”
Let me start from the beginning. Yes, I’ve just finished writing my new book. It’s going to be called “Discourses of Men’s Suicide Notes. A Qualitative Analysis”. I am quite pleased. I think I’ll like the book (I don’ t like all my books the same). It’s the first discourse analytic book on suicide notes ever written. Not only that: it’s the first book looking at suicide notes as social texts ever written, and suicide notes as social texts. Most people will surprised to know that after about 60 years of research into suicide notes, there are only 2 or 3 texts (two articles and one chapter) which look at suicide notes not only as ‘windows into the suicidal mind’.
But finishing the book also means that the book is a loooong polemic with existing research. Once again I will be ‘the linguist who doesn’t really understand”. But, to be honest, I’ve got used to it. It’s OK.
So far as good. And now begins the nightmare (well, a little one). The immediate effect of finishing writing a book is that after the very intensive period of writing and editing, tomorrow I’ll wake up and and there will be nothing obvious to do. Well, I still need to do some final formatting and send the manuscript off, but then, I will need to decide. Yes, of course, I have things planned, lined up, things I want to do, but over the last month or so I haven’t had to take a single decision. Every morning I knew exactly what I was going to do. It was so reassuring – the world as I know it every day. Decisions are overrated, I think.
But there are still a few things I need to write. The acknowledgements. I take them quite seriously. Who do you thank, acknowledge as part of the book? I really don’t like these decisions. The same is with the dedication. My last book, on fatherhood, was dedicated to my children, but the book on suicide notes? Then, after some weeks it will be the issue of the cover photo. I don’t even want to start thinking about it.
And then comes the worst (or is it the best?). For the last 20 years (to give a round figure – it’s probably a couple fewer) I have always been writing a book, and so came one book after another. And finishing one meant starting a new one. And as much as I always looked forward to writing the new book, I really dislike the starting point. So many possibilities, so many avenues, so many choices. And so, next week or so, I am starting working on the new book. In year’s time, it will be great. But next week will suck. And the one after that, and the following…
But the worst is still to come. Even though I have written a few and for the most part they have been received well (though there is this review Terry Threadgold wrote on one of my books….), I am still anxious. Some time in the first half of next year, the book will be out. And that’s scary.
Whenever I speak to young scholars, they seem to think that as a professor I am immune to the anxieties of seeing my work published. That’s so far from the truth. Finishing the book means that the anxiety starts. If the book brings critique of the ‘He’s only a linguist, he doesn’t understand’ kind, that’s really great. It means, it’s good and the critics have no arguments. But what if it is engaged with, understood, taken apart? That’s really scary. And it is much more scary for me as a professor than me as a young PhD whose doctorate was published as a book (my first book, on how people boast). Today, critique, somehow hurts more. When I was young, I expected it, when I am considerably older, I hope to have learnt….And yet, what if I am out of my depth? After all I changed the topic again (there is a blog to be written about hopping from one topic to another)
And so, finishing a book is such an ambivalent event. Yes, I was elated. I wouldn’t have to spend another 10 hours in front of my computer screen tomorrow. Bloody wonderful! Unfortunately, the elation lasts a couple hours. The good Sancerre I toasted the book with ended quickly. Now I need to face the consequences.