My book manuscript, I have decided, is a piano. And I don't know how to play the piano! But that's only part of the problem.
Several nights ago, I was out for dinner with a friend in the profession whose monograph is at about the same stage as mine.
"I think about my book every day," she said. "It's like a physical presence, like a piece of furniture."
We started talking about what kind of furniture our manuscripts would be, if that's what they were: something hideous? merely functional? twee and filligreed in a house full of midcentury-modern?
"Well," I said. "Mine's been in the corner with a sheet over it for ages. And it's nice there. Doesn't get in my way, and I can forget about it for long periods of time."
"But under that sheet, it's actually, uh. . ." I thought for a minute. "A piano. An upright piano. Nothing fancy, like a grand, but old and rather handsome--maybe something I inherited from a great-aunt?"
"I can't get rid of it. But I don't know how to play it. And it would be pretty just to look at, I guess, and for sentimental value--except that it doesn't really fit in my apartment, and I'd have to organize a whole room around it, and if I'm going to have it, I want to be able to play it, and not just, like, put doilies on it or whatever."
It was one of the more illuminating conversations I've had about my work--or, really, my vision of my career--in a while.
If your book manuscript (or dissertation, or latest research project) were a piece of furniture, what would it be?