I’m still working on a presentation for a Shaw conference in Spain next May. The road has been both bumpy and fun.
I was delighted when I had filled up seven pages. At the beginning of this project, I was afraid it was so slight that I’d have nothing interesting to present. That seventh page was a milestone and a beacon of hope. I could picture myself crossing the finish line.
But then I discovered that Village Wooing (the play I’m writing about) is much more interesting than I expected. Ideas started tumbling out. Yikes! I had to go back to the beginning to make room for my new insights.
Here – in no particular order – are some thoughts:
- My goal is to create a lively PowerPoint for the conference. So why am I struggling to write a @#$%! paper that may never get published? Here’s the answer: a paper requires precise, orderly thinking. That discipline is forcing me to dig deeper and come up with better ideas.
- The first page (which I’ve rewritten at least 10 times) is the key to everything. Once I’ve set up a reason to discuss Village Wooing, and introduced the points I want to make, everything else is going to be easy. (Or so I hope. I’m still working on that first page.)
- I know it’s crazy to think that writing an academic paper is similar to writing a novel. But I think there are some similarities. I have to keep my readers in mind the whole time – setting them up for what’s coming without giving too much away. I suspect it’s similar to the thinking process that novelists use.
- You might be surprised how much invention goes on in academic writing. Of course I’m not really inventing anything. This is a serious project that I hope will have lasting value. But it involves lots of choices. Which point will I make next? What’s the best way to support it? What should be left out? What needs to be emphasized?
- It’s frustrating to have to backtrack. Sometimes I hold my head when I reread what I’ve written: who wrote this mess?
- But it’s also great fun a lot of the time – and it’s thrilling to come up with something really good that hasn’t been said before.