Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing process: let yourself go

I'm still talking about the writing process because I don't want to think about all the "end of tenure" arguments going on right now. My take, based on my years as an adjunct: end tenure, and universities will do what's cheapest--and that doesn't mean a happy future of "high salary and limited job security with fixed term contracts." It'll be more like this example from recent history: "Outsource all the manufacturing and the U.S. will be the KNOWLEDGE economy and not lose any jobs." Uh huh. That turned out well, didn't it?

Back to writing. I've taken to starting each day with a Q & A about the project, a talk-out-loud (write out loud?) session in which I list all the things I'm thinking about in the project, what needs to go in there, what the objections might be, and so on. The entries go sort of like this:
  • Q. If you talk about the Floradora Girls in this chapter, you can't talk about them again in chapter 5. It's too much.
  • A. Rats. You're right. But if I shift the focus to Bert Williams, I can then make the connection to Marilyn Miller.
  • Q: That's better!

The other day, I sat down to this little self-colloquy and realized that the project was out of balance. The focus was wrong in two chapters, and I didn't know how to fix it. After struggling with it for a few hours, I did what any sensible person would do: I turned off Leechblock and read reviews of Mad Men. I cleaned the kitchen. I read a book related to the project. I went for a walk.

After a few hours of wandering around, it hit me: these chapters aren't about X; they're about Y. That should be the focus, and talking about Y also allows me to talk about other important issues. Hooray! I sat back down at the desk and wrote down what I needed to do. I'm excited about the project again.

Now, if I had just listened to Our Muse Ginger, I would have known that already, wouldn't I?


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I have been thinking lately that those apparently procrastinatory moments (cleaning, reviews, etc) may be signs that there is back-of-the-mind thinking going on, and I should ease up on myself when they happen. This post provides useful supporting evidence!

undine said...

I'm starting to think so, too. There's just a lot of seemingly wasted time that goes into a project, but really, it's back-of-the-mind thinking time.