If you’re a writer, you know that a writing project often has a mind of its own. There are lots of battles, and the project usually wins.
The book I’m writing about Shaw is taking the usual course of fighting me every step of the way. I have a graveyard of chapters that hit a brick wall after three or four pages.
This week has been typical. The writing seemed to get off to a roaring start. Monday morning, on a legal pad, I scratched out an outline for the first half of a chapter and then dictated a rough draft into my phone. (Evernote automatically converted it into text – I love you, Evernote!)
But the next morning I read what I had dictated and was horrified. Not a single keyword had made it into the draft. @#$%&!
Flashback: when I was starting my doctoral dissertation, my wonderful advisor – Dick Dietrich – gave me some supremely useful advice (which I didn’t always follow, alas): find a key idea and keep hammering away at it.
In order to do that, you need keywords that match your idea. This book-in-progress has two big themes: language and metadrama. I am happy to tell you that I came up with a nice list of keywords: words, Derrida, Plato, margin, definition, imagination, and erasure (for “language”) and role-playing, drama, acting, natural, artificial, and performance (for “metadrama”).
(If you’re savvy about language theory, you already know what I’m going to say next: there’s a lot of overlapping between the two lists. That overlap will help me write a unified book.)
Back to my writing struggles. Turns out there’s hope after all. This morning I woke up with a revised outline in my head, just waiting for me to put it on paper. I grabbed a legal pad and took it with me for a breakfast get-together with a close friend. I had just finished scribbling when she sat down at our table.
Yes, there are keywords galore in this latest version. Thank you, thank you, O writing gods!
But my brain is fried right now, so I’m going to do just a quick once-over on two random language points that have been on my mind for this blog:
1. I refuse to use “that of.” Here’s a sentence I wrote on Quora this morning:
Her English was better than some college graduates I’ve met.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to write “Her English was better than that of some college graduates I’ve met.” My admittedly ungrammatical version sounds natural, and there’s no confusion over the meaning. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem.
2. I just came across a question on Quora about how to respond to someone’s personal opinion about a controversial topic. Folks, all opinions are personal. Ditch personal.