So, the book is in, but no time to rest on my laurels, because I've got an ambitious writing program for this semester that includes a workable (thought not review-ready) draft of an 8,000-word essay by December, and a 2,000-word conference paper by November. I've picked up a writing guide that suggests beginning by assessing your feelings about writing, and confronting the things that have blocked you in the past. And what came out of this little exercise last night was that my biggest block was not feeling like I could write until I had read everything there was to know about the subject. So this morning, I tried something totally new for me: writing from a place of ignorance.
The longer piece is commissioned: I've been asked to write something that plays off my argument in the book, but that extends that argument both chronologically and geographically. It's going to be broader, and necessarily more general, but it needs to make an actual argument, rather than being merely expository.
So this morning, I threw myself out of bed early, rather than sleeping in as I could have on a holiday, got myself to my writing spot, and started to write. At this stage, all I could muster were musings: What would my essay need to cover? Where would it build off of what I already knew? What new territory would I need to cover? From there, I mused about new resources I would need to gather, both secondary and primary. I also wrote about people and resources I could consult to get me there.
Within an hour and a half, I had written over 900 words. Now, these are not words that will make it into the final project (note that the word counter in the sidebar is reset to zero). But they're words.
It seems that the only way to be one of those "write every day" people (and all the truly productive academics I know are of this type) is to actually do it. Writing every day might mean just writing up whatever I will have read the previous evening. Or it could be that famed "shitty first draft" that Anne Lamott speaks of. But most of all, in these early stages, it means writing without worrying about my ignorance. Ignorance is not stupidity, it's just lack of information, and that information will come in time.
More on this as it develops.
UPDATE: Only 10 minutes after finishing this post, I cruised over to Clio Bluestocking's place, where I saw that she had posted on much the same thing (though with more detail on her project-in-progress), including a link to the "shitty first draft." Gotta love the synchronicity of it all.