Drafted

This is worse than not working.  This is a disaster.  I am not only not enjoying my writing (as per Prof. Boice's promise I would if I worked in brief, daily sessions rather than in deadline-induced binges), I'm even more anxious than before.  I can't sleep, I spent another couple hours after last night's session watching yet more episodes of New Girl, I felt myself wanting to pig out--really pig out--for the first time in months.  It's hopeless.  It would have been better--much, much better--just spending this week feeling busy and writing the sermon in a single two-hour session on Saturday (which I could do if I thought of it as a blog post).  Instead of which, I've now spent nearly a week niggling at something that won't work and that will probably still need to be rewritten in a great binge on Saturday.  Or, if I don't try to rewrite it (again), will just make me feel even stupider because I actually worked at it over a couple of weeks and it still sucked.  At least if I wrote it smack up against the deadline, I would have the excuse of not having given myself enough time.  Now, I've given myself plenty of time--and I've still failed.

Although, of course, I haven't.  Not quite yet.  I could spend a half hour a day on it every day this week, worrying over it, rewriting it, killing it even deader than it already is.  And I wonder why I never work from drafts.† 

The meta-post here is why I find it so threatening to work from drafts in the first place.  Why does rewriting feel worse than writing?  It's exactly the opposite from what Prof. Boice suggests should be the case, that we make writing aversive when we expect it to come out perfect the first time, but that it becomes much more comfortable and fluent when we spend time prewriting and rewriting, allowing ourselves to work in small steps rather than going from the blank screen to the finished prose in one.  But the problem I have is that everything I try to plan out in the way that he suggests, with outlines of every point that one wants to make, just comes out stilted and fake, whereas the things that I write as they come to me--like my blog posts, usually--have a flow that makes them (at least to me) feel genuine and alive.  

Not that I can write my academic pieces without significant reading, note taking, diagramming, and outlining (in the sense of making lists of the main points I want to make).  But even there, I enjoy writing as a process of discovering what I want to say.  If I try to plan it all out before hand, all I come up with is the surface stuff that I've already thought about, whereas if I allow myself to get properly into the material (thus my preference for long, bingelike sessions of hours and hours a day), then I learn things that I never knew I knew.  None of that comes out if I try to force myself to think too quickly or in such artificially limited spurts.  And yet, this is exactly the kind of thing that Prof. Boice says writers who drop out of his program--and, by the by, never achieve the kind of fluency or productivity that his "graduates" do--say about why they don't want to change their writing habits.  I'm stuffed.

‡ [Update: I don't know why I am even the least bit surprised that today's breakfast reading (Boice, How Writers Journey, pp. 143-44) has to do with hypomania, experienced by writers as "periods of speeded thought, euphoria, creativity, and conquest...commonly reported as enjoyable and valuable."  "No wonder," Prof. Boice comments, "we might prefer to wait for binges and the hypomania that comes from sustained, intense work."  As one seminar participant put it: "I know the feeling as well as any.  It can feel as good as any drug-induced high.  It can push aside all my usual hang-ups and inhibitions, all my self-doubts.  It turns me from a person devoid of clever ideas to someone teeming with them.  It allows me to use time I have available, like holiday weekends, to catch up on writing.  While it lasts, it makes me feel powerful, unassailable.  It makes me a writer."  Ditto.  See above.

There is, of course, a down-side.  "Left unchecked, without relaxation to reduce tension and without bds to limit euphoria, hypomania carries many of the same risks as mania.  In its strong form, hypomania becomes associated with gloominess, diminished leisure, and inner conflicts.  As it grows even stronger, it produces irritability and chaotic thinking; its invariable impatience discourages planning or proofreading.  Hypomanic writing tends to be confused and mystical."  And that's not all.  "Hypomanics are...more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.  And, perhaps because writers so often employ hypomania to induce motivation, imagination, and fluency, they apparently suffer depression at uncommonly high levels.  In my own analysis of the fifty-two writers (on which Boice's book is based) over the long-term, those individuals who most often binged at writing scored highest on a standard index of dysphoria."  Like I said, I'm stuffed.]

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