Lessons from a big project

Oxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture (cover)The manuscript is at the press!! And now I can return my attention to other ventures (like this blog). ūüôā

Lessons from this big project (involving 3 editors, 42 essays, 49 contributors, and 4 years of work) are still fresh in my mind:

  • Mindfulness, meditation,¬†and staying in the present were invaluable tools throughout.
  • Estimates¬†are critical for determining whether a writing project is on track or not, but few people have developed sufficient self-awareness to provide accurate time estimates for work remaining. Our experiences confirmed Kerry Rockquemore’s formula in¬†The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul¬†(2008): initial estimate x 2.5 = realistic estimate.
  • Slack¬†is essential in managing a big project. We built in¬†(and used) extra time in our contracted timeline, and every bit of extra time that we could squeeze out of our personal schedules. Without extra space to accommodate the twists and turns of working on a collaborative project, the whole thing would have been much more stressful and delayed in completion. We are still delighted that our published volume came out the very month we projected in our initial proposal.
  • Patience¬†applied to both myself and others.¬†For me, reading Mullainathan and Shafir (2013)¬†Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much¬†was very helpful in reframing the issues of slack and hyperfocus so that I could take a more patient perspective. Among other fascinating observations, they argue that any scarcity (whether of time or money) actually reduces one’s overall cognitive capacity. Yikes.
  • Celebration!¬†Imagining the book party got me through some rough patches. That said, celebrating the smaller milestones along the way was also¬†worthwhile.
OHRS contributors photo

Editors and contributors to the Oxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture celebrate at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America

Update February 2015: The Oxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture is now available online and in print.