Thursday, September 20, 2007

Comparing Notes

I got into a conversation with one of my colleagues at Fellowship Institute today, about how we write. I had just spent three hours going through and consolidating the 15 or so files of notes from manuscripts, notes from secondary sources, and notes from other random stuff, and trying to organize them according to the two or three versions of the outline of the final section of this evil chapter (note to self: don't start a complicated section of a project until you know you're going to have time to see that particular section through to the end -- if not, you'll end up with confusing, semi-overlapping versions that take ages to sort out before you even figure out what you have to work with).

I blogged a while ago about how I write by spending ages taking and organizing meticulous notes, and only beginning to write once I've got everything in order. I just can't do it any other way, as I have very limited recall (a pretty serious liability in my line of work, and one that I've had to learn to work around). My colleague, on the other hand, reads for a day or three, then sits down and free writes from memory, then goes back and digs through his recent reading to find the precise sources for the stuff he remembers. We were both astonished that the other person could work as they did. My method, born of necessity, means that I often go for weeks of work without writing a word; on the other hand, when I do write, I can do half a dozen pages a day, no problem, and often more. But I do envy my colleague, whose system allows him to write a little something every single day.

That must be very nice.

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