Sunday, January 25, 2015

A burst of writing: grueling but satisfying

In a massive burst of creative energy, this weekend I have revised a journal article, drafted the introduction to an article for an anthology, and written a brief formal analysis of a work of art for the art history class I'm taking. These grueling tasks provided three distinct types of pleasure.

First, the revision: as much as I hated to murder my darlings, I complied with the requests of the journal editors. I always worry about how much historical and critical context I should provide; I don't want the essay to get bogged down in a swamp of explanation, and I fear underestimating the intelligence of my readers. However, the editors wanted more so I gave them what they wanted. It was a painful experience but I'm satisfied with the result and relieved to be done with it. (I hope.)

Second, the introduction: the anthology essay is due in June but I read a book this week that provided the perfect setup for my analysis, so naturally I had to write it down before it fades into the quagmire of my swirling mind. Writing these two brief paragraphs gave me hope for the future of the project and made me happier than anything I've written all year. (Of course, the year is still young.)

Finally, the art history analysis: I really didn't need to do it since I'm auditing the class, and in fact the professor expressed some surprise when I mentioned that I was planning to write the paper. But writing the papers is the primary reason I'm taking the class! Of course I enjoy the lectures, readings, and class discussions on art and violence, and I really enjoy hearing what the students have to say about specific works of art; however, writing this paper forced me to look closely at a work of art and then look again and again, finding more detail and significance with each new viewing. This practice of looking delighted my senses and sent me to the page bubbling with ideas and insights. I don't know whether my analysis is any good, but the process of writing it was good for me and made me want to do more.

If I could write with this much discipline every weekend, I'd vastly improve my scholarly output; however, this level of production was possible only because I had no drafts to read, papers to grade, classes to prep, or committee meetings to organize. How many more weekends like this can I expect to experience? Not many. Certainly not enough.  

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