Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?

SH (smashing hubby) and I are long overdue on a book submission to a well known academic publisher. Our own fault: we’ve been busy. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving! In truth, I could have taken the lead on the project and allowed SH to swan in at the last minute and fiddle with the co-authored chapters a bit. But that’s not how collaboration works, in my mind. In my mind, collaboration is a true connection between people, an equal engagement with the project and an equal say in the outcomes. I’ve been dithering about not doing anything on this project because I was waiting for HIM to do something. Bad move. Time for me to take the lead.

So Thursday night I made sure I quarantined some special time for us on the Friday morning to “finish off” the project. That is to say, we finally went through all the chapters and made decisions about whether to let the chapter go straight to the formatting process – otherwise known as “the brilliant RA” – and thus onto external review. Took 2 hours. Done. Why had we not done this before, I hear you ask? Because neither of us have written our own contributions yet. In order for an edited book to count on one’s research outputs (bloody universities are crazy about this stuff) one has to write or co-write one’s own chapters. Never mind the work that goes into throwing it all together! Because I am “less busy” than SH, I’ve eaten a shit sandwich and will be doing a major rewrite to one chapter – it needs zjuzzing up to meet a vaguely academic audience and the author acknowledges their novice status as a writer. I’ll start our introduction chapter (SH has therefore insisted I go first named author on that one) and finish off my own submission, which is 6 months late.

Birthing a baby: easier than this.

So why the title something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue? Well, as I was writing my chapter, which is a truly excruciating experience of boredom and frustration and few flashes of brilliance, I came across an old paper presentation I’d given in 2009, which I’d never published. Yippee! I read it and realised much of what I’m saying in 2012 I was saying in 2009. And it was pretty good, too. And I’m thrilled with that – I’ve made it through the wilderness; somehow I’ve made it through (thanks Madonna) and now it’s clearer to me than ever that what I wanted to examine in my PhD, I actually HAVE.

So in the midst of writing something new, I’ve added something old. The borrowed bit is easy: it’s the literature that gives my work legitimacy. The study of others that reveals where my work fills the usual voids in the research. And the something blue? It’s the bad bits. The days when I feel miserable about my research, when I feel my work is worthless. Luckily, it’s also the blue of a clear blue sky, on those days when I feel my work is taking off in positive ways. It’s the clear blue sense of accomplishment.

Writing for academia is much like the old marriage saying. In the quest for new ideas, new research and new findings, the old and the borrowed are always embedded in the final write up. It’s fundamental to how we plan academic papers and how we acknowledge the good or bad work that has gone before.

On the long list of things to do before February next year, I can tick off another task. Only another 8 major things to do before December.


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