Still waving research in the air (Project book month 2)

This picture continues to be the visual representation of Project Book. Me in two day old clothes raving at people who don’t want to listen (you dear, reader mainly)

Another ‘research update’ that’s more about the state of things than the plays…having abandoned my former PhD blog this seems the place to dump such thoughts.

The last couple of weeks have been hard. The ongoing job situation (or lack of one) and the bigger questions about what I’m doing and why continue to hang over me.

A week or so ago someone told me (in not so many words) that I ‘Might as well give up.’ and that basically very few people ‘make it’ anyway and I’d probably be better off giving up. This was offset a couple of days later by someone else telling me, absolutely not to give up and that I had a talent for a lot of the things I’m trying to do.

So which one to believe? I’m always inclined to quote not Kushner for a change but Pretty Woman ‘The bad stuff is easier to believe’. But I also think person number 1 misinterprets my aims, ambitions. I don’t have the arrogance to believe I’ll be a ‘famous writer’ hell I don’t even believe I’d make a living off it in the sense of it ever being a full time job. What I aspire to in a realistic sense is a job that pays the bills and is intellectually at least somewhat satisfying. Alongside that I’ll continue to do the other things; mainly write.

Right now in the broader sense I feel crushed under the pressure of it all. I can’t be working on everything at once. When life throws you at a crossroads unexpectedly (thanks job for ending early) the pressure to do all the things to make a change becomes immense. When all the options are opened suddenly, the weight of uncertainty and possibility becomes paralyzing. But unfortunately on top of all that, I still have to earn money. So possibly is also entirely limited.

All of this (somehow) brings me back to the Angels book. I’m juggling a lot right now- the debate between just getting another job ‘for now’ versus chasing ‘real career’ stuff. I have two, maybe more other creative projects on the go which also need attention, which could also lead to things. A lot of could out there. But my second person in that list also told me that I ‘had to’ write the Angels book. We talked a lot and it became clear from the outside, and from me that this should be a priority. And it should, it really should. But it’s also proving to be the biggest challenge.

If I’m honest I think what I should be doing right now is working an untaxing job for the money, and writing this book around it. It’s the time to do it, the time will never be this right again (or if it is I’ll have to wait another 10 years). If I don’t do it now, the truth is I probably never will. And again, honestly if I think what my regrets will be in 5, 10, 20 years it will be ‘I never wrote the book.’ Much like perusing my PhD in the first place, it’s the one thing I feel I need to do.

I’ve spent 10 years now working on this play, I fought every step of the way- to get someone to take on the PhD, to get through it, to be a part of the National Theatre’s production. I remember crying about the decision around pursing a job far away versus hanging around for Angels. I chose Angels and in the long an short term I’m still convinced it was right. Even if right now it all feels like a stupid set of decisions. I sacrificed a lot along the road, partly because that’s a PhD, but what’s more I poured my heart and soul into this play for 10 years. I fought so hard because I believe in the work, like nothing else I’ve done in life.  None of it came easy, and all of it comes from a love for the work a desire to share it, to discuss and dissect it. And to keep a conversation going on this important play. I’m not writing this book for career advancement (though I’m sure it won’t hurt) I’m writing it because I have to. I’m writing it because I do think nobody can write it quite like me.

But I panic. Is this all a waste of time? if I take another ‘for now’ job with the idea that I work on the book in my spare time…and it’s all for nothing. I find myself in another year, with nothing to show.  I’ve already wasted so much of my life on the PhD on this play that it’s perhaps time to give it all up. Put it away and chalk it up to experience. I had a great summer with the new production, but perhaps that’s all I get and I should move on, get myself another admin job and forget it all. Or I could say I’ve come this far, give it another go. But if another year down the line, another stuck in a day job I hate and nothing more so show for it, what then?

On one hand I look around me at academics and think ‘why do all of you manage to publish your PhD and I don’t?’ it’s probably a marker of again my failed academic status. I know I’m not good enough. But I know the work is good enough. I know it’s work worth publishing. With the greatest respect to all academics out there every day I see books published that are far more niche interest than my own would be. So surely, surely there’s a place for me? But it makes you lose perspective. In the academic world everyone has a book, it’s taken as given. But in the real world it’s seen as an amazing accomplishment. Academia skews your reality yet again. But ultimately there’s no place for me or the book in academia and it makes me cry with frustration. 

And there’s also the elephant in the room. The ‘Other Book’ being published early next year on Angels. It’s hard to write about because I respect the authors behind it greatly, I participated in it, and I’m really glad it exists. It’s a great work, (pardon the pun) that will be immensely useful, interesting and worth having in the world. But I have to be honest, right now it’s existence breaks my heart. I spent 10 years working on this play all told. I fought every step of the way. And it seems more and more likely, this book means the likelihood of my own is diminishing. And that’s life, that’s the industry, and that’s my own sheer bad luck. But it doesn’t mean I’m not crying about it all (again) as I type this.

But put all that aside, and the other thing is I love writing this book. In the moments I get to just sit and write or research away from the crippling panic about publishing it I’ve not been this happy in anything I’ve done in years. I wasn’t this happy doing the PhD because everything I was doing was being changed, directed, altered. Here I am just writing the story of the play I always wanted to tell (obviously a mythical editor will change that, I’m not naive but for now…). I’ve been writing about elements of the play I never got to visit before, and revisiting things I love to think and write about. And there’ a whole new production to explore and unpick and unravel. And there’s excitement and magic in that. This is a thing I know, but it’s also a thing I love. The other weekend I spent a couple of the happiest hours I’d had in months talking to Mateo Oxley (who understudied Andrew Garfield) about all things Angels. I can’t quite put into words how exciting and inspiring it was to spend time not only fully immersed in the research again but to speak with someone who shared my passion (and level of nerdiness for it). It made me feel for a bit that I wasn’t wasting my time.Talking this research with someone who’d actually been a part of the production, feeling their enthusiasm for what I am trying to do..makes me feel there’s something there.  And that’s what this summer, and interest not only in the play but in the way I talk and write about it did- made me think I have something to say. And it  made me love it again.

Part of me thinks that should be enough. That I just throw it all up on here or somewhere for people to read and be done with it. But then if we’re talking about ambitions, about ‘making it’. If I could publish this book. If I could feel I’d put all that I’d poured these 10 years, sacrifices and frankly insanity into. If I could feel I made something out of all that, that would be enough. It’s at once a big ambition and a small one. It’s small in that it’s all I want- I don’t aspire to it leading to anything grander. But it’s huge in that it’s a mountain to climb to get there.

And so what now? Honestly I don’t know. I feel I’ve already run out of options. Academic publishers don’t want it. Though I still have a couple of options to follow up. Neither does anyone else. I’m still writing, I’m not rushing. I want it done right, not quick. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to be Louis at the top of this blog; shouting about things nobody cares about until someone listens (Hey there’s an Epilogue theory, maybe Louis wrote a poorly received book on a topic nobody cared about anymore…)

This has mainly been a lot of my venting/crying onto a page, but that’s where I’m at right now. I promise a post that includes a LOT of nerdy costume references to make up for it. In the meantime have a picture of James McArdle, that always cheers me up:

Published by Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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