The Metaphysical Angst of Publishing

By Christina Morin

The recent publication of my book has been an extremely exhilarating but also unexpectedly heart-wrenching experience. Back when I finished my PhD, I remember joking with people about how I was suffering from post-PhD blues, but I never expected such a thing to happen upon completion of my monograph. It’s not exactly that I didn’t have anything to occupy me after finishing the manuscript. Precisely the opposite actually… I was already working on a new project and was so focused on the demands of my new research that I had little enough time to mourn the passing of the old. Whereas the submission of my PhD was followed by a bewildering aimlessness caused by the sudden loss of that which had occupied the majority of my time for the previous four and half years, therefore, the monograph left my hands with a sigh of relief and the recognition that now I could turn my attention to looming deadlines and articles promised long ago. And, where I worried about my thesis being ripped to shreds by heartless examiners upon completion of my PhD, I didn’t give much thought to the emotional angst that might accompany the publication of my monograph.

In this state of blithe emotional stupidity, I was struck with the vehemence with which post-publication anxiety took hold of me. Whereas pre-publication I was able to comfort myself with the thought of peer-review processes and other such evaluation techniques by which my manuscript had been found a valid and even valuable addition to current literary criticism, all such ability left me in the immediate aftermath of publication itself. Sending my publisher a list of the people and places to whom and to which to submit my book for review, I was torn between competing desires to promote and to hide the product of the last eight years of my life. I found myself worrying about what people would think, how they would review my book, and if they would find the typos that I instantly spotted upon opening the finished product. (I still cringe when thinking about those!) Trying to explain it to sympathetic but not necessarily empathetic friends, I said that I was suffering from existential angst on behalf of my book. I compared it (without real-life knowledge of course) to sending one’s child off to school for the first time.  At one and the same time, I wanted to let my book go, releasing it into the wider world, but also, to hold it back and protect it from potentially unkind readers and critics.

I can’t imagine I’m the first academic to feel such emotions on the publication of a long gestated book. In fact, I know I’m not, but I wish I had prepared myself a little more thoroughly for the angst of it all. To make matters worse, I received a phone call on Tuesday morning – the day before the long-planned launch of my book – to say that the apocalyptic floods on Monday evening had destroyed the batch of books sent over specifically for the launch. Were I superstitious, I would’ve seen it as an omen. As it was, I soldiered on, but I’d by lying if I said I didn’t mourn my drowned books, at least momentarily. Luckily, the publisher was able to courier over another batch, which managed to escape other acts of God and freak weather patterns, and the launch went off (almost) without a hitch! And now that the book has been officially released, I feel much more sanguine about it all, though still not quite ready for anything other than praise and adulation for my little baby… er… book!

4 Responses to “The Metaphysical Angst of Publishing”

  1. Yoshira Marbel Says:

    Can totally relate to your post. Publishing is hectic

  2. Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » The Metaphysical Angst of Publishing Says:

    […] “The recent publication of my book has been an extremely exhilarating but also unexpectedly heart-wrenching experience …” (more) […]

  3. Felix Larkin Says:

    Congratulations on the publication of the book, Tina. Don’t worry about your little baby/book. When it hits the streets, it takes on a life of its own and you cannot control what happens to it or what influence it will have. It’s like a child leaving home or, as you say, going to school. It’s always yours but it now has an independent existence. There is compensating satisfaction in having got it out and into the bookshops, and eventually you’ll have the pleasure of seeing it cited in another’s work – which shows that someone, somewhere has read it and found something useful in it. And just think, it may still be read in a hundred years or more – a special kind of immortality!

  4. Gerald D. Swick Says:

    Every writer goes through this kind of angst, Christina, and I imagine the added pressure of academic acceptance intensifies it—not that shared misery necessarily makes the misery any easier!

    If you did your best—and I’m sure you did—then rest easy. Some people may find fault with it while others praise it, and frankly, that’s good. As a successful writer once told me, “The worst thing anyone can say about your work is, ‘Well, it’s nice.'”

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