Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing Report

It's Tuesday, and I'm trying to get some writing done. Remember, I have the impossible goal of writing 100 pages of crap (journalese is fine) by April 1. Of course, I'd also like to get some good writing done in there too, but crap is a-okay with me. And I think blogging should count too. (Why do this, when 100 pages seems impossible? Well, because writing is one of the dominant ways I think through things. Yes, I need to communicate, publish, impress, get tenure, blah blah blah. But if I think of all these things, I'll never write a thing. I need to churn out crap. I need to show myself I can do it. Believe me, 100 pages of crapola could easily turn into a a decent 30 page article.)

There was this CFP I was really excited about at the end of the year that I sent out an abstract for. The editors sent me a question, and in answering that question I realized how sick and tired I am of trying to skew the argument of my dissertation in all these weird ways for different CFPs. I'm doing that now -- and basically I just want to tell these editors and everyone else to forget it, that what I really need to do is rock the world with my argument and that's the end of it. Not that I don't have a decent argument for the article I'm doing now -- I think I have a decent argument -- but I don't really care about the opposing argument, about the conversation that's going on that I'm writing into -- and maybe that just means I shouldn't be writing it. No, that's not quite right. It's that I think that the direction the conversation has gone in is totally wrong. Big Impressive Loudmouth Scholar made a grand proclamation on this subject once and just.was.totally.wrong and needs a smackdown. Though the article I'm writing is not really the smackdown this conversation needs. And so a lot of the conversation has gone in this other direction, which I think is the exact opposite of what it needs to be and is actually damaging.

I remember having so much time once and no ideas. Now I have ideas galore, but I don't want to have to flesh them all out. Part of this is I am an idea person. But part of this is that I think I see everything as connected to the diss book project -- and so while I have stuff to say about all sorts of things, it's still all wrapped up and connects back always to the stuff in the book project. Am I just saying that I want to work on my dang blasted book instead of all this other crap?

But what do I do about this article that I'm supposed to be writing? The argument is, I think, a worthy one. If I could actually write it, it would be a worthy addition to the conversation.

Let me put it this way. Let's say that my book project is all about Fashion Theory and why we should wear certain things and not other things. This article I'm supposed to be writing is about mittens, which my Big Fashion Theory says is something we should be wearing. But it's hard to argue for mittens without bringing in the whole Fashion Theory that explains why mittens are better than fingerless gloves or other currently fashionable items. What's more, some people say that mittens are good, but only because of the ways they are like fingerless gloves, which are bad! So I'm trying to make the argument for mittens, but without bringing in all the other Fashion Theory behind it, because it really has nothing to do with this CFP on Mittens. But without the Fashion Theory, it's short. Second, it's lame without all the Fashion Theory behind it. Or maybe this is the crux of the trouble I'm having writing the damn thing (warning: epiphany ahead): without the Fashion Theory, I'm not that interested in arguing for the worth of Mittens.

As you can probably tell, I just want to junk it. I'm really sick of twisting myself and my work in knots over this when I have a conference paper to write for Big Spring Conference and I wanted to go ahead and expand that conference paper into an article and then there's the Big Fashion Theory article I should write for Favorite Journal. I think I'm still in graduate student mode, trying to clutch at publications no matter what, instead of professional mode, realizing that I have a limited amount of time and some big contributions I want to make to the Conversation on Fashion and Fashion Theory. Or maybe being pre-tenure is still about clutching at publications, but it's that as a mom with a baby in the other room I don't want to waste my time.

(By the way, this fashion metaphor is so funny because I am pretty much the most unfashionable person in the whole world. I am not hip. I'd probably be anti-hip if that didn't turn out being as hip as hip is. I wear one of the same two shirts every day and pretty much the same jeans, which is to say, I dress like the mom of a messy one year old. Moreover I don't care about fashion or clothes much.)

In other news, I notice that I actually have more projects and in some ways get more done than I did before I had a child. I have these crochet projects and these cooking projects. I make muffins and potholders. I bought Julia's Kitchen Wisdom yesterday. I'm obsessed with watching Julie and Julia and pointing out the inaccuracies because I'm also reading Child's My Life in France. Clearly, if my scholarship were about Julia Child or learning Tunisian crochet, I'd be set.

This clearly counts as at least one page. And I did at least another page trying to write, again, for the article on mittens. Gah. Am I going to just write those editors that I've given up? I know it's unprofessional, but GAH!


Sisyphus said...

Mittens, socks, Fashion Theory --- maybe I'm going to have to scrap nosepicking and work on handkerchiefs. :)

So, are you crocheting those mittens? heh heh ;)

Anonymous said...
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Horace said...

Well, I certainly can't offer anything here, because we all know my research on cashmere-lined driving gloves is completely at odds with your mitten theory (though my gloves may still fit into your theory...)

More seriously, though, a couple of thoughts. I think there are two considerations: one is how your department evaluates scholarship, and whether a big book now and little else will be as valuable as a handful of constellated articles and a big book later (perhaps even after tenure).

My place is the latter, and my approach has very much been to put articles out there as a strategy to whet the critical appetite for the longer project. But if you need the book in print, end of discussion, then forget this article.

If there is a have-it-both ways path, could you craft the mittens article as (at the very least) suggestive of your grand fashion theory, and perhaps even as a more direct call for grand fashion theory as a new critical direction? In an ideal world, you might be able to even re-work your intro so that you begin with the example of mittens in the book as a lead-in to the larger theory. Then this article could be a twofer: both a pub by itself, and occasion to revisit the introduction of the book project as a way to jumpstart that writing process.