Monday, September 17, 2012

Creaky: A writing post

A couple of weeks ago, I joined a writing group, because I wanted to get an article cranked out.  Did I mention that I haven't published anything on the new project yet? At all?

In any case, my goal for the last week was simple: read/skim three "classics" on the Big Picture Topic, and write a 400-word synopsis. The reading took a while, five of the seven days. And then, for the last two days, I sat down to write.  400 words.

And I couldn't make it.

What the hell? When I came back from my first big research trip, I was habitually setting daily goals of 600 words and whizzing past them without even trying, doubling that on most days.  This week, I couldn't get a lousy 400 words in two days.

Is it because it's new material? No, it was even newer back then. Is it because I'm trying to Write An Article, rather than shitty-first-drafting? Well, perhaps that's part of it. But mainly, I think it's because I'm creaky and out of shape. It's been a long time since I've written every day.  And yet I know from experience that "Write Every Day" actually works. Just let go of the need to be perfect, and write.

So, in the spirit of an Autumn of Modest Goals,[1] I've set myself three goals, provisionally for this week only:
  1. Get up early
  2. Write 200 words first thing every day -- even if they're crap.
  3. Make sure before going to bed that I have the next day's writing task laid out for me.

And this morning, I got up early (for me, anyway), meditated, made coffee, and wrote 260 words -- plus scratched out a few notes for a later section.

Let's see how this goes.

UPDATE:  Crap crap crap!!!  I went to back up the writing, and somehow... I managed to overwrite my copy with something last updated ten days ago...  And the newer copy, with all that work, is nowhere in sight.  Nowhere.  What. The. Hell.


[1] Autumn of Modest Goals appears to have happened accidentally. In August, I quit smoking.  Nothing else but that. In September, I appear to have managed to cut my diet soda consumption down to one 12-ounce can a day. It's actually kind of satisfying.


Comrade Physioprof said...

FYI, this blogge poste was 385 words. Maybe making professional writing into this big serious ponderous task makes it harder to get going. What about looking at it as no different than just casually whipping off a blogge poste?

Anonymous said...

John Cleese did a documentary miniseries on creativity. In it, he notes that he did the same thing that you're talking about wherein he lost the draft of a brilliant comedy sketch he'd written and had to redo it. After redoing it, he found the original. The 2nd version written without the original was way better than the lost original he'd been bemoaning. (Then he brought in experts to talk about why that was.)

That story followed by the science stuff after always makes me feel a little better when I screw up and lose things.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Nicoleandmaggie: thank you. This is what I've been trying to tell myself all morning. Maybe it'll even be true. And if the idea was really good, maybe it'll be back. I just need to be at my desk every day so it knows where to find me.

Anonymous said...

I think that's a good bet, especially if this is rough first draft stuff. Sometimes I even counsel students who won't or can't plan to write a bad draft first. Then they will know what they want to write, and can do so more effectively for the draft they'll hand in. I even use blog posts to work out what I think about things sometimes, so, I have two posts (should be three) about who drove expansion of the tenth-century frontier over at mine that will probably never go live, because with a bit of luck, by the time I get that far through the queue, I'll be ready to turn them into an article. Having to write something twice is rarely a bad thing for the result!

Char Newcomb said...

. Just let go of the need to be perfect, and write.

Excellent advice. I do this to sketch out my rough drafts. Some of it is downright awful but at least there are words on paper that I can go back and edit.

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