Saturday, April 18, 2009

MMAP Update April 18: Arrrgh!

People, I am so sick of this essay! Even if you leave aside the fact that it is a part of a dissertation chapter that I had to leave and come back to multiple times before finally excising this part entirely and rewriting it 17 million times before submitting it for publication, all of the fun is gone.

Horace said it perfectly over at To Delight and Instruct ---- while parts of our scholarship may be fun, getting through the whole process is not:
I know the points I want to make, the background material I need to marshal in support, the textual evidence to cite. It's all in my head, and frankly, that part is the fun part for me: the discovery, the new idea, brimming with promise and brilliance, the Eureka that I know will add to the ongoing discussion.

The thing is, the kernal of an idea I could probably express in a page or two: a nice blog post, even. But real scholarship doesn't work like a blog post inasmuchas it is, well, work. Assembling those quotes, and the theatre history, and the theoretical underpinnings, etc. etc.--That's not even a tiny bit of fun to me: it's work.
Yes, that's exactly it! I like finding out stuff and learning new things, but there is a long and tedious road between tossing off a brilliant comment in a seminar and actually making that a well-written, nicely researched, finished, article.

I've learned that, unlike the advice you give grad students with writer's block, I am not allowed to verbally explain my work to other people in a nonthreatening venue. You know how they tell students to go talk it out with fellow grads or send an email to someone as a way of warming up to the writing process? For me, that is the easiest and funnest part of writing and I am very good at it (it's why I gravitate so much to teaching and think I'm good at it). I'm a raconteur, good at spontaneously saying funny little stories and interesting insights. But once I've had the idea and said it, I'm done. I have no impetus to write it up, particularly when that is so much work compared to the ease of shooting my mouth off. So when I go to revise I'm already bored: moving on! I think. I've already had that thought.

Today I've spent about 30 minutes rereading and marking up a newly-printed draft of my article. I'm not sure I should count it as my time since I actually did so little ---- mostly I refamiliarized myself with the whole thing and agreed with my bolded comments to myself. I'm at the stage where the additions have been worked through and largely integrated into the article. That is, all my new points and sources have been inserted where they need to go in the old paragraphs in the right order, and now the whole mess is a bunch of broken-up paragraphs with bolded sections. Where's the fun in that? I've done the work of rethinking and discovery and ordering, and as you can see I'm not doing the work of smoothing and transitioning and closing up the paragraphs because my brain is not invested in this part. The Eureka part is over and now it's just slogging.

Meh. My "tunnel vision" method where I leave a note to myself of the exact paragraph I should look at, which I then start glaring at before I've even had coffee and thus kinda trick myself into getting it fixed and crossed off my list, seems to work better than a more holistic readthrough.

And yesterday? I got about 45 minutes done that consisted solely of writing a single sentence, but since it was lopping off an old topic sentence to replace it with one that connected to the new paragraph that came before, it was worthwhile. Thursday I did nothing --- besides teaching and errands, I got a big pile of community college rejection letters. Looks like I'm not even going to make it to the interview stage for that type of search either. I was feeling low.

Bah. I'd rather think of these stupid transition sentences even rather than that.

1 comment:

medieval woman said...

I'm sending my revision gnomes over...