I have, against all odds and expectations, written a book that is over 90,000 words long, including notes and bibliography. For me, that's something, considering that I've yet to have an article crack 20 pages in print. In fact, the bibliography alone for this book project is longer than any paper I ever wrote in grad school. I write short.
But one part of this whole project has been eluding me: the conclusion. I hated writing the conclusion to my dissertation, and it was only there because it had to be. Same thing with the conclusion to the manuscript I submitted to Press back in September: I wrote the conclusion-shaped object at the end in a 36-hour period, desperate to get it out the door 48 hours before my tenure file was due. As one of my readers said: "This is a strong book with a very weak conclusion." Well, yeah.
But now, with my deadline approaching,** I need a conclusion. A real one. I've known that since September. But here's how I managed not to write one:
1. September - April: Tell self that conclusion can't be written until I hear back from readers
2. April - May: I have readers' reports, but now need to write revisions. Once those are done, I'll know what it is I'm concluding about. But I can't begin the revisions until I get through this semester then get back from all my summer travel.
3. June - mid-July: Summer travel.
4. Mid-July - mid-August: Revisions. Chapter conclusions. Rewrites.
About a week ago, I decided that, with the deadline close enough to touch, I really couldn't put it off any longer. Still, "outline conclusion" remained on my "Three things" list for a couple of days. Yesterday, in the final hour before putting myself to bed, I managed to toss of a desultory couple of bullet points.
But this morning was different. This morning, I got up, took my computer to the coffee shop at 7:15, sat down, and asked myself, "What do I know about this project right now?" No peeking at last night's notes, or the manuscript as a whole. What do I know?
And I started to write. And 90 minutes later, I had 700 words. Then I added 700 of the best words from the conclusion-shaped object, and 200 from last night's bullet points. And all of a sudden, unexpectedly, I have a draft. It will need revision, of course, but it's going to be a fine place to start. Ten months of dread, procrastination, and avoidance, all taken care of in under two hours. So here's this blog entry's thesis statement:
**Oh, for those of you who may have been wondering, I did indeed ask my editor for a one-week extension, and he granted it, no problem. So my conclusion and I have a bit of breathing room.