Making the Sausage is Never Pretty

Hello people! Here's a guest post by Michelle Dionne Thompson on her writing process! It's great! :)

As an alt-ac who still does academic writing, I find myself staring at my screen with stunning regularity. I am working on publishing academic articles and converting my dissertation into a monograph.

When I earned my PhD, I walked away from everything academia but adjuncting for two years (I had to pay bills). Then I decided that if any historian was going to be say something about Jamaican Maroons in 19th century Jamaica, I had to say it. I had to publish.

This year, I have had limited success when a journal gave me a Revise and Resubmit. I am awaiting their decision as I write this blog post! Because I’ve taken feedback from journals multiple times, this actually feels comfortable.

But now, I am shifting my attention to writing my book proposal(s).

I have never done this before.

I don’t know what to do.

I own From Dissertation to Book, and it wasn’t quite as helpful to me as I hoped. Like a good researcher, I have looked at all manner of blog posts on how to write a book proposal. I am still overcome with feelings of “I don’t know what to do.”

I sit down to write, and I am desperate to clean. My son’s entire room. NOW.

Once that urge passes, I wonder if I could sneak in a little bit of social media. Just a quick peek . . .  40 minutes later . . .

I’m dying to answer the onslaught of email, for the first time ever.

Why is this happening? Impostor syndrome has reared its ugly head. When I ask myself what’s really going on, it’s that I don’t think I have the credentials to write anything. I’ve never been published (not true . . . my work has been incorporated in anthologies). I’m not a tenure track professor (who cares). No one wants to recommend my work (not true). I’ve never really been a success at anything (OK, I just won’t even address that one).

It’s amazing what the gremlins in the peanut gallery have to say when you want to up your game.

And I thought I had this imposter syndrome stuff handled, under control.

It turns out that every time you try to do something bigger, it rears its ugly head.

So now I know this every time I sit down and write. As a result, I turn on so I’m not distracted by social media. I slowly clean up around me when I’m not on the clock writing (I set this time in my calendar). I set timers so that I know I can clean to my heart’s content after I finish writing.

Making the sausage is still an ugly business!

Michelle Dionne Thompson coaches women writers, academics, and lawyers to implement their biggest visions for their lives and society. You can find out more about her at