First Thought of the Day

I wonder what it would be like to trust my experience as a source of knowledge.  To know something other than what I read in books.  Because then I would have something to write about other than other people's ideas.  Something that I created.  Something that I understood.

Why this anxiety?  Because everything I think to write about feels so forced.  Okay, so I'm trying to force this exercise, maybe it's just a part of the process of learning to write in brief, daily sessions.  Step one: start keeping a file of things that I observe that might turn into topics to write about.  What Prof. Boice calls "prewriting": reading, noticing, collecting, taking notes, organizing, filing, outlining.

But for blog posts?  I've never needed any of that stuff before, I always just sat down to write when an idea (usually in the form of a title) crystallized and I knew what the gist of the argument was going to be.  And the few occasions when I have taken notes because I got an idea that I couldn't write about immediately (alright, maybe it's more than a few, often in church), more often than not taking notes kills the idea or, at least, satisfies the thought process sufficiently to be able to let the idea go.

Not quite true, I know that.  I was thinking back to a series of articles that I wrote in the first four or five years after I published my first book.*  I was feeling relaxed and happy because I had written the Tenure Book, and I was willing to let myself explore for a bit.  So I started writing pieces simply as experiments, not to prove that I knew everything about a topic or to make some definitive contribution to the field.  Just to see what I might be able to say.

I would read for a month or so, taking notes in my composition notebooks.  Then I would make outlines, more often diagrams, of the argument that I wanted to make.  Then I would write.  Not, I have to admit, wholly relaxed about the whole thing, but certainly without the kind of mind-numbing terror I have fallen into in the course of working on my current book

Which has to be perfect.  Which has to be the last word on its topic.  Which will embarrass me if it isn't the most brilliant thing ever written on devotion to the Virgin Mary.

And I wonder why I blocked.

*Some of which, thanks to the vagaries of academic publishing, are only just now (i.e. five to six years after they were accepted for publication) starting to come out.  And you wonder why I so enjoy being able to publish here?


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