If you are feeling like me, full of doubts, and unable to write, and scared of the book, and hiding from it, and saying “I’ll work on it in 10 minutes, in an hour, tomorrow”—and if you are in the fourth or earlier year of a tenure-track job, or even fifth—then, please, hire a writing coach.
I am planning to opt-out of the tenure system at the start of my fifth year, about 10 months before my dossier would go out to external reviewers. Theoretically, it might still be possible to throw a book together, to have a weak but presentable tenure case, but my book is not just unfinished, but a complicated, godawful mess produced by writing in circles for three years. Nevertheless, in January, I still wanted to write the book. Now, in July, I want to escape from the book.
And the truth is, even had I sent the book to publishers in January as was the original plan (or March, the second plan, or June, the third plan), my tenure case was going to consist of:
—look, a book! a book! probably not yet in hardcovers, but hopefully proofs, and basically nothing else
—a conference paper three years ago as “evidence of significant progress on next project”
—massive spin around some teaching issues, with evidence of striving to improve and successful teaching in certain arenas
—a read-between-the-lines promise that I would go into administration and contribute to the university that way, so give me tenure, pretty please with a cherry on top?
So, I was looking at doing this sort of re-calibrating and finding my wheelhouse, regardless of the tenure issue. I’m not all torn up with regrets that I didn’t take my own advice, partially because I suspect the above tenure case would have left me with a deep-seated and permanent case of impostor syndrome. And I am excited about looking to new changes and adventures and finding the place where I am best suited to be. But, strategically, if I were able to do this sort of re-thinking from the security of tenure, rather than in the middle of the worst recession in decades? Yeah, that might be nice.
I have been to a couple of workshops with writing coaches and they have excellent strategies and good success stories. Give them a try.