Last week I got a welcome email. It was from a publisher, saying that they would like to take my manuscript, my thesis, to the next stage of assessment. Part of me was elated. Part of me was prosaic, reasoning that it was my exalted referee’s name that got me to stage two. Partly I felt dread.
Dread. Yes. What’s going on with that? Doesn’t every author aspire to be published? Well, yes but…
Let me clarify that this is not fiction writing which I do for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m talking about work. It’s all about the economics. My boss returned from an OS jaunt recently with a story of how for one job in my discipline at a UK university they received a thousand applicants. The only people who made it into ‘being vaguely considered’ pile had two books on their CV, in addition to their PhD. It really is publish or perish in this game. Basically I’ll be forever lurching from one insecure contract to the next at the lowest pay scale (which is quite low given how long it takes to get a PhD) unless I can get published.
Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so gloomy at the thought of revising my PhD if I had found it anything other than what it was. Doing a PhD is like that proverb of putting a frog in a pot of water and bringing it slowly to the boil. The cool water of the first year is quite pleasant. You get to spend an whole year just reading and exploring. There’s possibly no other institution on the plant that offers this luxury. At the end of first year, the heat goes on. By the end, which may be anywhere between three and seven years, you are boiled to a sodden mush.
Let’s not forget either that life on the outside goes on, and can be equally challenging. In my case, multiple deaths, including my own vitality and sense of meaning about anything, including and most especially work.
Reworking my thesis into a book takes me back into that deep gloom. I feel like I’ve only just escaped with my life. Now that I may (I need to whisper this quietly so I don’t tempt fate) have gotten my mojo back after years of deep depression and grief, now I may have to go back to the that time. It wont make any difference if it is this publisher or someone else. I am going to have to find a way to face this with creativity and intelligence. At the moment I can think of nothing that would help me with the process. I know I’m going to absolutely resent giving up my gardening/sewing/embroidery time on the weekends. Maybe an end vision might help.
I survived this mind-altering-body-changing-soul-mangling process of a PhD and burying two parents, two grandparents, two friends and my cat, and I still managed to produce this book out of it all. Any you know what? It’s a good book. Not publishing it would make going through all that pain worthless.