There Was Something Back There About Practice, Right?

I realized over the weekend that I’ve been struggling for so long with the article I’m writing — or, to be honest, not writing — that it’s (a) now pretty heavily overdue, and (b) threatening to take on the albatross-like status that only things I feel hugely guilty about can take on, a situation that compounds daily, as my guilt prevents me from being able to fully confont the object of my guilt. Etc. So clearly steps must be taken.

I’m now in the second day of a very strict regime, in which I sit down at the computer immediately after performing the necessary morning ablutions and having a little breakfast and caffeine. I am not allowed to fire up the email client. I am not allowed to open a browser window. There are no forms of interactivity available to my computer, for one half hour. For one half hour, I open only the article draft and my notes, and that is all I look at. For one half hour. And I write, something, even if it’s totally placeholder prose that I know won’t make it into the final version, even if it’s just bullet point notes about what comes next.

What I have, after two days of this, is a lot of mangled bullet points and notes for things I’ve got to read and/or recover from old research. It’s not pretty, but there’s a lot of it, and it’s starting to take on a kind of shape. I’m beginning to get interested.

And today was a bit easier than yesterday, I think.

I seem to recall having mentioned something like this a while back, about the relationship between ease and frequency in writing, something about needing to practice daily. It’s probably bad when the need to reread applies to your own ideas, too.


  1. You go girl!

    **waves brightly coloured pompoms**

    How much of it is the need to “reread”?

    Could some of it be a need to repicture?

    You mention the article taking shape. Is it a square, a sine curve, a gently sloping line?

    I ask because I suspect the shape taking has an impact on how much rereading really needs to be done.

  2. Argh. I hate that rusty feeling of coming back to writing after a prolonged period of procrastination. It does get easier with frequency, doesn’t it? But that’s the hard part. I like the no interactivity bit, because that’s where I get stuck, reading blogs and emails, and suddenly everything is an emergency and much more important than what I should be writing. Keep up the good work.

  3. Is it normal to write a full dissertation chapter, then look at it a few months later only to have no recollection of having written it (let alone any idea what the chapter is actually *about*)?

    It’s kind of like driving along a familiar route while talking on the cell phone and afterwards not having any memories of having driven anywhere.

  4. E., if I could tell you the number of times in the course of getting from the earliest stages of the diss to the final printed book that I read some passage and thought one of two things:

    1) Did I write that? It’s actually pretty smart!

    2) Jesus, who wrote *that*?

    I wonder if the ability to forget what you wrote is somehow related to the body’s ostensible inability to remember pain — a defense mechanism of sorts that allows you to return to the material somewhat fresh, letting you read and revise it as if it really were someone else’s…


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