Yesterday Was a Good Day…

I spent a good few years working in the film industry as a screenwriter and script editor with only a mere modicum of success. Occasionally I would get a good commission only to be disappointed by the unprofessionalism of the person hiring me (a moan for another day…).  But it would be all too easy to blame them for me never reaching the stellar heights of the industry.  Instead I try to bear in mind the phrase I often heard at networking events: “You’re only as good as your last script”, and maybe mine werent as amazing as I hoped.

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In academic writing I think that phrase holds true to a certain degree, in terms of publications at least.  But in terms of day to day writing I find that having a good day yesterday and producing something workable if not refined can actually be a hinderence to getting started the following day.  There’s an element of laurels resting, but also academic writing can be so draining that getting going again, for me at least, can be hard.

Yesterday was a good day.  I finished off a rough draft of one of my conference papers.  It still needs a lot of work, as I was mostly freewriting it and forcing myself not to edit as I went.  But its there, on ‘paper’, so to speak.  And today I need to tackle the second conference paper almost from scratch.  I have some rather random slides, but the structure’s not working, my argument’s not clear, and I have to start walking up that mountain AGAIN after just ‘finishing’ one paper.

So, I dont actually feel like I am AS good as my last piece of work.  My ‘goodness’ comes from determinadly taking those Sisyphean steps back up the writing mountain.  Here we go then…

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Roughing it

One thing I am forcing myself to do lately is to write things almost freestyle without much consideration of sentence structure, grammar or spelling (some people might say that I have always written like that…).  I’m trying to get into the habit of getting it written rather than getting it RIGHT.  I’m the kind of person who will go over and over the same introductory paragraphs till they gleam (or are really boring…) and still not have a middle or an end.  But my i’s will be dotted, my t’s will be crossed…

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I’m about half way through the rough first draft of a paper on New Age Bio Medical Conspiracy theories for a religious studies conference in September.  I KNOW that there are parts that dont make any sense yet, I KNOW that I’ve still got some things in bullet points that need expanding, but today I want to get to the end of that first draft and finesse it all later.  Likewise with the Powerpoint presentation for the paper, I KNOW that I havent got quite the perfect picture for slide 6 yet, or the right font size and layout all the way through. But I need to charge on to the end to get it done, then get it GOOD.

Likewise for this blog post.  Usually I will stop after a paragraph and mooch around the internet to look for an  amusing picture to stick in to show of my wit and intelligence (yes, I am one of those people…).  This time I am just barrelling through with very little editing and I’ll stick some pictures in once I am done. Like this cute kitten:

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Changing my work style is necessary I think.  In part I think this is a more productive way to work, I have 80,000 words to get written for my thesis.  They cant possible be all individually handcrafted little gems, even if I hope the overall argument will be! I do feel a little like I have hit the mid-PhD slump Patrick Longston writes about here, and his tips are very useful.  But freewriting about the problems you are having was one of the techniques I was shown at the Writing Summer School I mentioned before, and I do think its extremely useful to get you into the writing action when you get jammed up by procrastination and anxiety.

So today…. I’m going to finish that rough draft of the conference paper, even if I write it in a very  slapdash way for now. A key phrase from the Summer school: “Give yourself permission to write badly”.  What a relief THAT is….

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