I have just sent the final manuscript for the book from this project: Gender, work and social control: a century of disability benefits, to the publishers, Palgrave Macmillan for their socio-legal studies series.
It has been a long road to get to this stage and it has had its ups and downs. Writing a book can be a slow process, one step forward, two steps back most of the time. Just as a chapter looks as if it’s almost there, I realise I’ve missed something or it doesn’t make sense or it doesn’t capture what I really wanted to say. Writing a book is a lonesome process and it is easy to sink under waves of self-doubt. At one stage, when I was feeling particularly downhearted, I was discussing the research with a friend in a cafe. My enthusiasm for the project must have come through somehow because the woman at the next table came up to me and said ‘That sounds fascinating. You should write a book about it’. She did not know how important that was to me then.
I found this drawing under a pile of papers. It represents how I was feeling about a year ago when I took part in a course on creative research methods at the Morgan Centre at the University of Manchester. The organisers asked us to draw a picture, illustrating a problem with our research.This picture was an attempt to show what I was thinking at that time. In the top left corner there is a pile of papers. These represent all the archive files that I have been working on for years of this project. In the top right are all the people in the archives, calling out to me, telling me their stories, waiting to be heard. In the middle is my laptop, where the project mainly lies and where most of the thinking gets done. Down in the bottom left hand corner is another pile of paper. These are all the pages and pages of draft manuscript that a book produces. Most of my drafts have stayed in electronic form but this represents the many different versions that I have worked on. Then there is the book itself – imagined as a finished product, a real thing with a cover and a spine.
When I drew this picture, my problem concerned how to get from the middle of the picture to that finished book. Now I’m nearly there. There’s still work to be done but that particular problem has been mostly solved.
Finally, in the bottom right hand corner you can find a reader – you perhaps? I don’t know what the reader, or you, will think about it but I’ve done most of my work.