Is It Really a Book?
In this series, I’m talking you through the thought process I’m using to write a faculty development book proposal on burnout. I had the idea, but before I could write a proposal, I had to step back, to decide if the idea was actually a book – and if the calmer, less externally driven new me actually wanted to write another book, let alone one about such a sensitive topic.
Essentially, I spent those months ruminating on a few specific questions:
- Why is this idea interesting to me?
- Why would the target audience want to read this book?
- Why does it have to be a book? Could it be something else?
- Can I/do I really want to commit to a big project, especially on this particular topic?
- Am I the only one who can write this book?
In thinking through these questions, I was able to both logically and emotionally process the idea. I was obviously interested, and eventually passionate, because I was finding burnout to be an insidious, always-lurking possibility given the current culture of higher education. Once I talked openly about burnout, I saw that many of my peers were relieved to talk about their own experiences, that they didn’t have to be stoic with me. So, the answer to the first questions helped me decide the topic was important and relevant and had the potential to make a difference in other faculty members’ lives.
With the next set of questions – is it really a book? could it be something else? What if it was a website? A podcast? An anonymous Twitter account? A private Facebook group? After playing with and testing all of these options for a while, I decided it is a book and that the other media can support community-building around it. This is a book I want to write, not something I “should do” for whatever reason.
And lastly, I really thought about whether or not I could intellectually and emotionally write about burnout, if I was the right person for it. Was talking to other faculty about burnout going to be empowering or problematic for me? I talked through these concerns with my therapist, husband, mom, and trusted peers. One of the most useful things to come out of this thinking time was the suggestion from my coach, Katie Linder, that I didn’t have to write the book on my own, which had been a worry. Because I was imagining a hybrid genre anyway, I could invite others to share their stories and advice in their own words which would make the book far more compelling and valid to readers (more on this in a later post).
After this period of questioning, I decided that faculty need this book and I’m in a position to pull the curtain back and go public. So, that’s the mindset I took into writing the proposal.