Wednesday, July 31, 2013

is there a draft in here?

Today was the deadline for the 6,000 word Tolkien article commission that's been occupying most my time for the last month, in between concertizing and trips to Michigan. Actually, I find on checking that the request was to get it in "by the end of July so we could have August to turn it around," which is a lot less formal than 31 July on the dot.

Which is good, because it's not quite done. There are still a couple gaps where I skipped over points that just weren't coming out adequately, it's completely unformatted, and the casual sweep with which it's written alarms even me. Also, it's 7,400 words long. (That's actually pretty good for me. Usually my research articles end up at twice the length intended.)

I turned it in anyway. I want to prove that I've actually done the work (I was a last-minute fill-in, thus the haste), I need a break from it if I'm to regain any perspective, and I really need feedback.

A problem I've had in writing, especially in recent years, and which is what made me nervous about accepting this assignment at all, is that often, especially in formal writing, I know roughly what I want to say, but I can't get the words to dribble out of my fingers and on to the keyboard. I sit there in frustration for ageless periods.

This month, because I had to be away from the keyboard at Mythcon and at concerts, I took a notebook with me and drafted various chunks of the article in pencil during intermissions and such. (I also drafted my Carmel Bach Festival reviews that way.) Surprisingly - because I hate to handwrite, and don't even know cursive* - I found that the words in my head did leak out and appear on the paper.

I wonder why that is. My best guess is that I type faster than I usually compose, so my fingers get impatient sitting there waiting for my brain to catch up, and that makes my brain nervous. Whereas I can't handwrite as fast as I'm composing, so it's all I can do to keep up with the flood, and the words pour out in a steady stream as fast as I can get them down. A good third of the article was written this way.

The next step, I suppose, is to find out if I can do this deliberately, and not just when schedule exigencies force me to.

*This is not because I wasn't taught. I was a stubborn little kid, and when the teacher said brightly, "Today we're going to begin to learn a new way to write," I just flatly refused to learn it. The way I felt was, I'd already gone to enough trouble to learn the old way to write, and I was dashed if I was going to start all over again from scratch. Eventually, when I reached the age of dealing with financial and legal documents, I learned with some difficulty to sign my name, but to this day that's the only thing in cursive that I can write. But it doesn't look childish: I conscientiously developed an idiosyncratic and not entirely legible signature. I figure that the point of signing a document is not to allow your name to be read: for that you can print, or type. Signing is to verify that you're acknowledging or approving the document, and, for that purpose, the more distinctive, unusual, and unreplicable by a forger your signature is, the better.

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