Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Honestly never intended to create a monster but now that it's here, let's put it to work

A great idea recently came wafting my way, but I greeted it with a combination of gratitude and dismay. On the one hand, it's not every day that I get a chance to grab hold of the kind of insight that could transform a boring writing project into something really spectacular; on the other hand, making the great idea behave will require a ton of work.

I thought this summer's writing projects wouldn't be too demanding, but one of them recently exploded in my face. The plan was simple: add a new section to a conference paper to expand it into a publishable article, based on research and notes I'd already assembled. Piece of cake.

Except it wasn't. As I wrote the new section, one interesting idea kept coming to the forefront and demanding further attention, overshadowing everything that had come before. My neat, tidy little analysis started to look like the Elephant Man, growing new bony appendages that could not be ignored and would not fit into the neatly tailored outline of the original paper.
But here's the thing: this demanding and unruly idea is really cool. The more I wrote, the more I appreciated the possibilities: I could reject the new idea and end up with yet another clever analysis of interest to about three specialists in the field, or I could develop the new idea in depth and end up with the kind of article that shines new light on a topic of interest to a much wider range of readers.

But it won't be easy. I've already had to dump my existing introduction and thesis and replace them with something more compelling, but now I have to try to make all those bony protuberances work together to create an elegant profile for the essay as a whole. I shove a section into line over here only to see it bulge out over there, and then I have to stitch in another section with sutures that look like they belong on the neck of Frankenstein's monster.

Yes: I seem to have created a monster. I just hope it doesn't consume my entire summer.

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