Lately I’ve been really struggling with my choice not to finish my book manuscript after I made the choice to leave academia. I couldn’t have finished it, not really. For one thing, I didn’t have the money to support the rest of the research I needed to do to make it the book I wanted. But it also just hurt too much to finish a book for a community that I felt had rejected me. Their desire to have that book actually made it worse.
I’m still not going to finish it, at least not in the form I had initially intended. Since I left academia, I have worked on a proposal for a different kind of book, a memoir for a trade press, only to have that adventure fall through. I am getting very good at trying to write books and failing, which is why I’m not desperate to find a way to write my Jane book, in any form. It’s so hard and so expensive and it takes so much from you.
And yet, I’ve been struggling with this choice that wasn’t really a choice. Some of it, I’m sure, comes from the fact that I have a wonderful job designing and giving educational programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford. I have a job that lets me use my PhD in ways I never could have hoped for. But it also means I spend every day talking about the same things I wanted to write about. It means I’m deeply aware that people would jump at the chance to publish a book centering Clemens that touched on the same things I was exploring with Jane, and that no one would find that book lacking because it used one person’s life and network as its lens.
So I decided to put this out there. It’s the first 11 pages of a really messy draft of what I thought would be Chapter 2 of my manuscript, with the original file name. I’ve included all of the comments, the parentheticals, the tentative strikeouts. If you think it would be instructive, you can even compare it to Chapter 2 of my dissertation and see what’s pulled from there and what’s new. The date on it–December 1, 2017–is about a month before I got the rejection that closed the door on full-time academic work for me. It’s a preliminary draft, and two years out of date as well. While I doubt anyone would want to cite it, for those reasons and others, if you do, please ask me first.
I love this material and I still find myself thinking about it. I just couldn’t keep it to myself anymore.