The moment you send a book out into the world can be full of emotions.
On the one hand, a thing you had been working on for so long is now complete. You took something that was an idea, a hunch, a guess, or a feeling… and turned it into a sold piece of work that other people can read. You probably feel a sense of accomplishment, of pride, of excitement.
On the other hand, once you send off a thesis or book, you don’t have control over who reads it, or how they react to it. People might misunderstand it. They might understand it but dislike it or judge it to be poor quality work. They might ignore it. That might make you feel nervous or apprehensive.
Finally, once you send your thesis out into the world… you can’t work on it anymore. It is done. There is often a bit of a sense of loss mixed in with the relief.
So the feelings are complex.
And one of the things that we humans find useful to deal with complex feelings and significant moments of transition is to use ritual.
One ritual that poetry writers have traditionally used to help them acknowledge and address these emotions is to write a “sending” poem.
Some examples from the 16th and 17th centuries (hence the spelling!)
Go, little Book; thy self present,
As Child whose Parent is unkent,
To him that is the President
Of Nobleness and Chivalrie:
And if that Envy bark at thee,
As sure it will, for Succour flee
Under the shadow of his Wing.
Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view,
Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
If you would like to read more, see these three 20th-century poems called ‘Envoi’: by Ezra Pound and William Meredith and Meg Bateman.
Perhaps you would like to write a letter to your thesis before you send it out into the world? Tell it about your hopes and fears for its future.
It doesn’t have to be a poem, but sometimes putting our feelings into art (whether its a song, a drawing, or a dance) can be an effective technique, so do consider it!
Anyway, I wrote this post just as I sent off one of my books after the last round of proofs to be actually printed printed, and my co-author and I had a lot of feelings. I was explaining about envois to him, and thought you might find it helpful too!
Also, I spent some time at Shut Up and Wiki fixing the Wikipedia article on envois.