Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcome back

I finished a book in 2014. It's the first time I've done that all on my lonesome since the early days of my professorship, when I turned my dissertation into a book. Looking back at the process, similarly to that previous experience, it's hard to believe I had the discipline. The introduction was written during the spring, but it wasn't until early May that I had a chance to start the body of the book in earnest. During the twelve weeks of summer break I wrote five chapters -- a pace of 1 chapter every 2.4 weeks. I knew that once the fall semester started, I wouldn't be able to keep up that pace. But with a deadline of late November, I needed to get close to it.

I'll never forget the moment in early October when I finished chapter 7. For weeks I'd been mapping out the time remaining on my deadline. "Chapter 7 is the third from the end," I rehearsed to myself. "Then one in October, one in November, and boom -- I'm done." Then, after putting that antepenultimate chapter to bed, I turned to my master outline. Wait -- what's this? There are ten chapters in my book?! That's right. I had allowed myself to misremember based on the nine themes I was exploring, one per chapter. But chapter 1 was background, not one of the themes. I still had three chapters to go. Writing the third-from-the-end chapter again in October was a low point. And I knew that Thanksgiving was right out. So I told my editors it would be Christmas, and I worked through my trip to the annual AAR meeting in San Diego -- the one I thought would be a book-finishing party -- to finish chapter 9. Finally, on the Friday before Christmas, I submitted the manuscript.

Since then, it's been vacation from almost everything having to do with school or scholarship. We played tabletop games with the kids everyday, from their first day of the break through New Year's. I relaxed into post-Christmas-rush knitting, the very best kind, when the deadlines fade and the knitter can consider her long-term needs and goals as well as her short-term gratification. Football ruled on the television, and we snuck a few screenings of 2014's best movies into our schedule, too. Noel made the most amazing holiday food of our lives -- baked goods, prime rib for Christmas dinner, a Yule log, corned beef and cabbage for New Year's Day.

I knew that when the calendar rolled over to 2015, my life would look very different. There's no book that I need to push forward a few more pages every day. Without having to carve out an hour or two, whatever could be spared, in my schedule for writing -- without promises to editors looming -- my prospects seemed to stretch out before me limitlessly.

So I made some resolutions. Here I am fulfilling one of them -- I'm going to get back to freewriting every day. It may not always be blogging, but it's likely to be blogging, quite a bit of the time. I've got a year's backlog of projects to post on Toxophily. And I'm tired of having a thought worth exploring, thinking "I ought to blog about that," and realizing that I'm not going to because all my writing energies need to be bent toward my book. I'm going to blog about those, this year.

Because it's freewriting, it's not going to be priceless pearls over here every day, loyal readers. Some days it will be just a brain dump, or worse -- the writing equivalent of taking the garbage to the curb. I'll try to be discerning enough to leave the dregs in draft.

But I'm excited about being back here. It's part of a larger set of resolutions, about making time for people I care about. Far too frequently in the past two years, as I've researched then written this book, my students and colleagues have knocked on my door only to have me communicate to them, by words or attitude, that I don't have time for them. I've stopped reading blogs and participating in my online communities. Yet when I do spend time with people who need my help or just want my company, they receive far more from me than I am actually expending. This year, and going forward, they're going to be welcome in my office, on my schedule, in my life.

That includes you, if you're reading this! I'm here for you. Ask a question, suggest a topic, offer feedback. I'll see you back here often.

4 comments:

Libby in TN said...

Glad to have you back! I've missed you.

Tybalt said...

Congratulations on finishing the book! Looking forward to hearing more from you; I've missed the rhythm of your blogging.

Justin Snook said...

Congratulations! And thanks for promising to up the interest of my feedly. :)

Pilgrim said...

I'm glad you are back in the game, but don't quit reading all blogs…some could be worthwhile.

Just sayin'