Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bringing My Book into the World

Yesterday, my unit gave a “noontime conversation” for faculty on blogging and how it can be used in teaching. I didn’t get a chance to say much. That often happens in a time-bounded program where professors are speaking and I am the last speaker. But I did make one point. To keep up a regular – and hopefully interesting Blog – one must give it priority. When I pushed other things aside to sit down and write, I realized that two days had elapsed since my last entry. Were I not so verbose, posting every day would not be difficult. But the literary prescriptions of my brilliant, elegant, draconian mother are difficult to shake, even in my mid-sixties. I know she is up there watching.

That is why there are two posts today… to make up and, possibly, to assuage guilt feelings and letting two days elapse without a post. I do realize that the world is not waiting for my posts. It is only that I care about keeping to standards that I have set for my self and professed to others.

In any case I wanted to share a discussion from my bi-weekly counseling session, about bringing a long awaited (by me at least) book into the world. Paradise Poisoned: Learning About Conflict, Terrorism and Development from Sri Lanka’s Civil Wars, is the title. I made my first trip to Sri Lanka in 1987 and began serious writing in 1990. By simple subtraction, one can see that this has been an eighteen year project, though there have been another book, and many other published papers along the way.

Professors are rarely effective publicists for their books. If they enjoyed marketing and publicizing rather than writing, they wouldn’t be professors. And these days one can’t count on a publisher, especially one in Sri Lanka, to take much responsibility. I know something about launching and marketing “trade” publications. It can be a demanding enterprise and not much fun. In two relatively brief brushes with “fame” I found it to be an experience that could be, simultaneously, both superficial and addictive.

But how to take responsibility for the launching the product from eighteen year project, in which thousands of hours of my time and the time of others, research grants, and not an inconsiderable amount of my own financial resources, as well of those of others, have been invested over the years? The prospect was driving me crazy….

A one hour counseling session, really just a quiet space to clarify my own values, thoughts and feelings, helped greatly. I realized that ( a) – as with life itself – the greatest satisfaction had better come from the journey, not the destination. (b) I have done my very best and, now, the choices as to whether my book is a “success” or not are largely in the hands of others. (c) The ten days I will spend in Sri Lanka, participating in the first launch events, can be a frantic and stressful experience or they can be a time to celebrate a journey’s end with long-standing friends, colleagues and supporters.

Either I can choose how the process of bringing my book into the world will be or I can leave the choice to others and become a relatively passive instrument of their choices. My choice is to have the process be fun and a celebration. It will be intense, no doubt, but it need not be frantic or stressful.

Creating this context will be a challenge, but the goal is attainable. Check out this space in about three weeks to see how things turned out.


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