I turned in my revised book manuscript about five weeks ago. In my situation, this deadline represented the stage where substantial future revisions are now out. I’ve responded to my readers, my series editor, and my own questions that had come up in between. I’ll be lucky if I can change more than few sentences going forward.
I was happy for about 12-24 hours afterward, but every day since then—and I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY—fears have arisen about, well, you name it. My list of fears is full of contradiction, irrationality, legitimacy, the complex, and the obvious. I’ll limit the following to my top issues (listed in no particular order):
(1) How will the topics and ideas I purposely excluded come back to haunt me? This fear has driven, in my part, my Guillory series of posts.*
(2) What counterexamples did I miss or undervalue?
(3) My analysis is inadequate. This has driven a persistent thought about how I’ve undertheorized parts of my book. It’s amazing how much there is to know—which undervalues what you do, in fact, know.
(4) Nitpicky reviewers will tear my book to shreds. This, by the way, is why I have always tried to be generous to books—even those I disliked—in USIH reviews. Then again, I’ve not been able to see anything but weaknesses in my manuscript since submission. So this fear is probably most palpable.
(5) I’m also afraid of reviewers who won’t read my book but use it to expound on their pet projects. Thanks for nothing.
(6) I’m afraid of success. This is an admittedly rare fear, but how will I mess things up if I’m put on the Big Stage?
(7) This is a kind of 6(a), but what if my book inadvertently provides support and comfort to the wrong people? What if I’ve misread my potential audience?
(8) What if no one reads or reviews my book? This is the most likely scenario, of course. And in some ways it renders null and void many of the fears listed above.
I never had these fears when I submitted final peer-reviewed articles. My theory on that is, with articles, the point is to be detailed, focused, and narrow. You’re providing a slice of your research to journals. But with books you’re going big—trying to capture more readers on the margins. And you don’t provide three points of support for every assertion. So a book, despite it’s increased word count, ironically makes you feel less secure. You’ve provided more breadth and, in some ways, less depth on particulars. But maybe this is just a problem in my case.
What say you? This can be an open-ended post about writing fears, or fears in relation to USIH colleagues. I’d especially like to hear from colleagues with a few of their own books out there. How do you handle your fears? Do some fears end? Am I not—gulp—fearing things enough? – TL
* Only one deep as of today.