As far as Samuel Johnson was concerned, "no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." I don't know whether he's right about that or not; I've certainly rarely been paid for my writing, but then again I am perhaps a huge blockhead.
But the good news is that I AM being paid to write this FGS history! This is a good thing indeed, although it also brings in a new level of complexity, perhaps just because this is a new realm for me.
I mentioned in my last post that there's a real group emphasis in this project, and part of that emphasis is the collective effort to get this book paid for, to get money both for the time to write it and for the publication of it. The business guy of the school has been very clear that there is no money in the operating budget for this project, and of course a high school doesn't have a budget for research support like a college would, so every dollar has to come from donors. (One of the many things I've found interesting about teaching at an independent school is that I'm so much more aware of the financial aspects of the institution than I ever was at a college, even a small college such as St. Martyr's.)
Unfortunately, the donor part of things isn't yet worked out. The head of school and the director of development are going around this summer to get some alumnae to cough up some major money. My Co-Author and I put together an outline and initial description of the book for them to take to a couple of richy-rich alums, and the hope is that they'll make a big gift. Then, once the head of school has a big chunk of money and the book is clearly a going concern, it should be easier to get smaller gifts of support from other alums and parents.
The hope is that they'll raise enough money this summer to give me a course release for next year, so that I would be teaching only three courses and then writing in that release time. (My Co-Author teaches only part-time, so she's hoping to get actual money rather than release time for her part of the writing.) We've also told the head of school that, ideally, she'd also be giving us money to write over the summer. She's totally supportive of that idea and is 100% convinced that she'll be able to get the money ... but she also was clear that she couldn't promise us anything until she had the actual financial wherewithal. So at this point I'm scheduled to teach four courses next year, and any change to that will happen only when she's got a financial donation in hand. I'm glad to say that there has been no suggestion at all that we should do this without compensation, which is a good thing.
So here's what Co-Author and I decided a month or so ago: Given that summer is really the best time to get started on a writing project, and given that we trust the school, we are going ahead and taking the risk of starting work this summer, on the assumption that the school will eventually compensate us for this time. We were very clear with the rest of the committee that we were not doing this as a charitable act but rather expected to get paid at some point for it. What was cool is that the head of school was blown away by this move on our part; she took it as a huge statement of confidence in the project (which it is), and it clearly had an electrifying effect and motivated her even further in her fund-raising efforts for this summer. So we have high hopes.
I've been clear with Co-Author that I'm feeling no pressure or guilt about how much we do or don't get written this summer. After all, we're not actually getting paid yet (even though I'm sure we will get paid in the long run), so I figure that we use this summer to get our feet wet in this project and see how the co-authoring is going to work and what adjustments we might want to make. Having said that, my private goal is to get an initial ugly draft of the first chapter before classes start in fall.
So here's the question/challenge I'm having this summer (in addition to, you know, actually drafting that first chapter): I'm keeping track of my hours so that I can eventually either get paid for the summer or count these hours as part of an eventual course release. Right now I'm counting research/writing hours and writing/revising hours separately, and I'm also keeping notes about where I was (home/school archive/etc.) when I worked those hours. I'm not sure if those distinctions are necessary, but I thought I'd rather have more info than less.
My worry is that, in keeping track of hours, I'm going to start double-guessing myself about how fast or slow I am as a reader and a writer. And I worry that it will seem like I spend too long reading background stuff, which I think is actually one of my strong suits as a writer (a professor once tolded me that I "hoovered up sources" like no one he'd ever seen) but which may seem like wasting time to other folks, especially folks who aren't themselves writers. And I think that my Co-Author may track hours differently, that she may not count her preparatory work but only her writing hours; this is something I'm going to talk with her about this Thursday when we get together to interview a former faculty member (which of course is the sort of thing that I totally think we should count hours for). It's going to be maybe good but definitely hard to have a Co-Author also keeping track of her hours -- it's so easy to make the comparisons between us, and it's going to perhaps seem obvious who's being more efficient with her time, although the quality of what we produce is not going to be as easily count-able.
I'm mostly trying not to worry about this and just to count the hours for the work I actually do and trust that the quality of what I produce will be so obviously good that no one will be able to doubt the wisdom of my process. But I've never tracked hours before except as a private method of accountability, so it's all making me a little nervous.
But, in the main, I'm so excited about this project that I'm taking these little nerve-wracking elements in stride. I got started this week with a trip to the school archives on Tuesday, but I also was recovering from my nieces' visit and dealt with a handyman and yesterday had my fibroid surgery (which went well but took the entire day, and today has been kind of a recovery day), so I haven't done much since then. But next week I'm getting serious about the book; D. is going to be gone to the Episcopal Church's General Convention, so I have the whole week to concentrate on the book and make some real headway (including that interview with the retired faculty member, which I'm looking forward to and is another new experience for me as a writer). After next week, my time is not my own in the same way: I'm heading out of town for a week of professional development and then am teaching in a three-week summer program (so I'll be able to read/write in the afternoons a little but will also be teaching over four hours a day). So next week is my big work week -- and I'm so jazzed about it!