Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Finished! (for now)

Yesterday I sent in my article, after a month of almost non-stop writing. One thing I learned from this experience is that one month is not long enough to conceive (as in, not even an inkling that this was an essay I wanted to write until I saw the cfp) and execute an article. I put in hour after hour of feverish writing--twelve hours straight on Sunday, for example--99% of which I ended up cutting because I could not (COULD NOT!) let myself believe that the focus of my essay was as narrow as it was. That beast that rose out of the muck? He rose about three times, rose BIG, and said "Hello? It's me, your thesis. Write me!" and every time I said, "oh no, my thesis is much bigger than that, but you're sweet, and I'll give you a paragraph." He persisted, I balked, and wrote in circles around him until finally I had a talk with a friend who I usually try to pretend is not the HUGE NAME academic she is, because then I would be too intimidated to talk to, let alone cry on the phone to her, on a day when my time was running out and the thesis I thought I could handle was whipping around the room, full of itself and totally out of control, and she snapped me into perspective.

She said, "your desire is an obstacle to its own acheivement." And those words made everything make sense--the office with books stacked on and around my desk, making a little path to my chair, the trashcan brimming with empty TaB cans, Triscuit boxes, and discarded drafts, my unwashed body, my bleary eyes, my aching elbows, sore from resting on my desk while my fingers hovered in mid-air above my keyboard.

Outside there was a heatwave. From my window I could see people dressed in very little clothing entering and leaving the building. I started keeping track of when they left and when they came back, of how many of them were going to the grand opening of the new Target store down the street, who seemed to be leaving out of duty, who seemed to be leaving for something fun. I was becoming Gladys Kravitz. Inside, it was dark and cool. Two airconditioners, a fan, and a cd called White Noise (tracks include rocket ship, dryer, fan, and furnace)tried to block out the noise of the one year old upstairs, running the full length of the apartment, back and forth, back and forth, hour after hour. I was losing my mind.

I wanted to write this article more than anything, because I wanted to be a part of a very special issue of very special journal, but I had seen the cfp way too late, and that pressure was making it impossible to write my very special essay for the very special issue of the very special journal. So I turned off my computer and went to dinner at the friend's house and we talked about the general topic of my essay and I got a reality check about how people who don't write about this subject think about it. I went home, with five days until the deadline, and cut and cut and cut and got down to the most basic thing I could say about my topic and I said it. It's not sloppy or slapped together. It's a tight little essay. Maybe too tight, too little. Best case scenario: the very special editor of the very special issue says, yeah, this is cool, write another 500-1000 words and we're on. Worst case scenario: we're not on, so I give it another 500-1000 words and send it somewhere else.

Most interesting thing I got during a way tangential moment of last minute research: discovered a band from the 70s called Ten Wheel Drive, featuring a singer named Genya Ravan. Check it out. She's a screaming sort of blues singer, backed by a band with lots of horns. "Tightrope" is the song you'll want to know. Totally delicious.


Blogger Flavia said...

Hooray and congrats--and welcome back! We've missed you, but hurrah for being so productive.

Your story gives me hope. I just saw a CFP for a volume on a bizarre topic that I completely made fun of. . . until yesterday I stumbled upon something that would Fit Perfectly, if only I knew how to write about it. So, I'm trying.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Hilaire said...

Yes, congratulations!! That is some great advice your friend gave you - probably true in so many academic writing situations. Your story of how you arrived at the essay, finally, is one to file away as a reminder of the ways these things happen.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Margo, darling said...

Thanks! I haven't missed you guys, because you totally kept me company this past month. Thank god for bloglines.

Flavia, would writing this help you see your normal work in a different way? If so, go for it. Taking time away from my primary research was like spending a month working out only one muscle group really, really hard. Suddenly I have biceps that will let me work all my other muscles harder, and more effectively, than I ever could have before.

The topic of this special issue is about a theoretical issue I'm trying to address in my book, but in this essay I was able to drop all my primary texts and theorize The Thing in terms of late 20th c. culture (specifically, the 1970s of my childhood), as opposed to the early 20th c. culture of my book. So writing this was awesome b/c it allowed me contextualize the theoretical issue and OWN it, if that makes sense. I was pretty deep in a chapter when I put it aside to write this. Now I feel ready to go back and tie up the chapter. We'll see.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous What Now? said...

Goodness, what an achievement in its own right, regardless of what the editor says (but we'll all keep our fingers crossed). I need to spend a month working very hard on a particular writing project, and I'm aiming to start in a little over a week, once I'm mostly settled in here. So this is an inspiring story to read!

7:16 PM  
Blogger Flavia said...

Thanks for the advice, M., and the useful analogy. I think that my proposed essay (for which the CFP-er just needs a proposal at this point, thank God) actually would be surprisingly relevant to the work I'm doing in the book, although the connection took me totally by surprise. I wouldn't be working on the same texts, but the, uh, phenomena in the essay and the book are very much interrelated. (I'm also hoping that the essay would focus largely on work(s) by my bud Johnny Milton, since I pretty desperately need to do some new work on the big guy to reinsert myself into that conference scene--so that would be a plus.)

Thanks again--and here's hoping that you can enjoy the rest of your summer!

9:17 PM  
Anonymous bw said...

i loved your description of watching other people enter and leave the building. that sounds like my whole life when i'm "under" (what i call it when nothing else matters but that goddamn deadline). i've been up to my elbows in new research this month but no real writing and i'm JEALOUS AS HELL -- hear me?

8:41 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

congrats! I'm impressed. I sometimes see those kinds of CFPs--interesting but only quasi-related to my Projects-- and toy with the idea of them for a while, but haven't taken the plunge like you did.

7:54 PM  
Blogger dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

more congrats!

10:59 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

Saw Ten Wheel Drive once.

3:19 PM  

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