Sunday, July 22, 2012

That Gut-Wrenching Tipping Point

The summer seminar I'm taking part in is drawing to a close, and that means getting a presentation of work accomplished together.  I'm trying to synthesize it in some way, and have some focal point, all while tying it in to the themes, large and small, of the seminar.  Herding cats, I tells ya'.

In any case, today marked another ka-chunk step forward, where I began grappling with the Big Idea.  And here's the problem: I really, really want this big idea to work.  But I'm at the stage where I'm pushing it ahead of me and pretending that I'm following where it leads.  And it's at that kind of tipping point where you get a wrenching feeling in your gut that comes from knowing that the next big push might see you either break through and really understand what you're trying to do, or fuck it up beyond all recognition, and not understand that you've done that until you're too far into the process to remember where you were, and what you thought before you started flogging the Big Idea.

I've been through this before, with First Book.  At one point, pushing the idea out in front of me before I really believed in it -- the "fake it 'till you make it" school of writing -- actually helped me get the big idea that the book would eventually be based on.  At other points, it ended up with literally months of research and writing being thrown in the trash.

((deep breath))



squadratomagico said...

I'm sort of dealing with that tipping point now, in working on this chapter. I just have the terrible feeling that there's something looooooming over me, something that would kick this chapter into higher gear, make it more original, or something. As it is, it's a good treatment of its subject, fresh, but I have that sense that just out of sight, in my peripheral vision, so to speak, there is a bigger set of implications waiting to be drawn. It's kind of driving me crazy.

Good luck with yours! It certainly sounds like you've made some significant archive discoveries, so you probably are underestimating your awesomeness again. I've noticced you do that.

Historiann said...

If faking it until you make it worked for your first book, then I'd go with a method of proven success. I hear what you're saying about how it sometimes leads you down some dead-ends, but I think we all need to try to remember that throwing away some of our writing is just a part of the writing process. It's kind of like your philosophy of "shitty first drafts:" sometimes you need to get some $hit down on paper, and doing that may lead to other directions/discoveries that prove more fruitful in the end.

It's better to toss it than to try to publish wrong stuff, right?

Can't wait to hear/learn more about your discoveries this summer. I'll have to come back to your state more frequently!

Comrade Physioprof said...

This is totally how I feel when I'm writing a new grant. When I've written about three fourths of the thing, I start to feel like I'm on the knife edge between "these proposed lines of inquiry are truly fucken groundbreaking" and "these proposed lines of inquiry are truly fucken stoopid". Most of the time I end up on the groundbreaking side (in my mind, of course; grant reviewers frequently have their own ideas). On a few occasions, however, I have discarded a grant completely after having spent many, many hours on it, realizing that it was shitte.

Rimi said...

I'm a big fan of faking it till you make it, because I've realised that the faking doesn't come from a void. It's rooted in all the stuff 'real' writing comes from -- all the data you've sifted through, all the thinking you've done, all the interviews you've conducted.

In a way, 'faking it' is a way of letting your subconscious (as it were) take over, be sort of stream of consciousnessy till the ideas start popping up into your conscious mind, and then you can grab them and beat them into shape :-)