You get to spend hours, days, weeks in research. You go to cool libraries, you find yourself in the basement offices of academics who know enormous amounts about the topic you love. You get to travel, to talk to other people who know much about either your topic or topics ancillary to your topic. You become in a tiny way an expert on a thing, and you get to have the kind of thoughts experts have.
You get to do ordinary reporting, where you talk to people and hear their stories and ask them nosy questions in their yards, on their porches, their farms, their city offices and homes, interesting in themselves. And then you get to gossip about it in blog posts. And on a project like this one, you get to spend hours, days, weeks outdoors, walking the surface of this amazing planet, breathing air and seeing birds and clouds and cars and telephone wires. It's a privilege to walk this miraculous world of ours, and to have the job of describing it.
Then of course you have to write, and people will tell you that's hard. And it is, mind you, but I'm one of those rare writers who actually loves the act of writing. I love sitting at a desk, with a million notebooks open, and library books, and texts, and index cards in different colors, with post-its on everything but my kids and sometimes even on them. You get to take months, years of reporting and researching and distill it into piles: does this go with this? How about this? Which pile goes where? What can I absolutely not fail to get in this book; what can I, as it turns out, do without? What is essential to the story I'm trying to convey? What is utterly fascinating -- but just not part of this story? You spend months like that, a year or more, and your pile of things you must not omit gets smaller, and the pile of things you have organized and expressed gets larger, and then one night at 2:34 AM or thereabouts you finish a sentence and realize that that's not just the end of a paragraph or a passage or even a chapter. It's the end of your book. Then, tired, dreamlike, and a little insane, you go outside and in the cone of a streetlamp you do the touchdown dance, because once more it turns out you actually did it, and you wrote a book.
Then you send it to your editor, and if you're lucky you have a good one -- this time, gracious, but I did -- and they turn it around and then you have many weeks of work to do, getting rid of mush and fluff and blather, resolving confusion and strengthening your points, and cutting everything you can live without. Then the editor says okay and you're done, and then you relax for thirty seconds and it comes back from the copyeditor, who has caught errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, structure, organization, and through-line so deeply embarrassing that your body goes into involuntary total cringe, but you thank them, solve the problems, and send it back.
These are all steps, and every one you either love, like, or courageously endure.
For one tiny second you enjoy the fact that your book exists. On pages! It has numbers and running heads and chapter titles and all kinds of book-looking things, but: you have to proofread it. You have to read this thing, one more time, character by character, word by word, page by page, from once upon a time to happily ever after, and you'd rather die, and you probably wish you would. I know I do.
You have to, character by character, trace the errors of your reporting, the insufferable flaccidness of your prose, the unendurable tiresomeness of your voice. And that, my friends, is how I spent the last few weeks.
And I tell you now: it is over. I have proofread A Delicious Country. It will come out in March 2019, and then there we will be. We have a cover image, which I cannot show you until we have a preorder page, because obviously you will want to overlook my many flaws and begin preparing to read it. Right?
And I'm thrilled about that -- delighted. But mostly exhausted. And, truth to tell, sick beyond imagining of my own voice telling you or me or my editor or anybody at all about Lawson and his world and his journey and me and mine. But I have done it: I have read. I have proofread. I have caught and corrected errors. And I have returned pages to UNC Press, and for the love of God it's their problem now.
So I thought you should know. I mean, callooh callay, to be sure. But mostly, there we are. A thing is done. And we'll talk about it more soon, or anyhow I will and if you come to a bookstore or listen to a radio or maybe watch TV you might see me doing it. But for now, done. Done. I shall go to sleep now. So very nice to have met you.