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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Note on the Blogging of the Writing of the Peer-Reviewed Paper

Three series on this blog I need to finish: The Galapagos Diary, The Extended Phenotype, and The Blogging of the Writing of the Peer Reviewed Paper. I intend to complete all three, but a note on that last one:

My intent was to blog about my research, while posting, and eventually making available, drafts of my work. To say that the first few drafts were gawd-awful is probably not surprising - and neither is the fact that I have not made the doggerel available yet. (I will, though!)

However, the real issue became for me the rapid succession, once I had my pen passionately inked, of drafts that were successful, and which followed each other so quickly that they almost tripped over themselves. Once I knew where I was going, my writing sprinted - and that, and my rapidly approaching deadline, made the orderly blogging and posting of drafts fall off.

This made me think about the nature of change, and brought me back to that august, time-worn, so-called dichotomy, "gradual" versus "sudden" change. Being that my paper ultimately questioned another false dichotomy - the apparent conflict between preservation and conservation in both the archival and the natural* environments - it is appropriate that my experience reiterated for me that both types of change coexist, and in fact, support each other to the point of being each other.

During my period of rapid revision I was writing as "gradually" as I normally did, one word at a time, yet the ideas were coming more quickly. I was still producing drafts one after another, but the time period in which I produced them had become compressed. Part of this was due to my intention to get my assignment done by the deadline, but most of it was unplanned, because in my effort to find a way to say exactly what I meant, I found that I needed to do more, not less, writing, and more, not less, experimenting. It took me by surprise.

What I ultimately produced was not my magnum opus - I'm going to be working on that - but a trimmed down version of only twenty pages (the assignment's limit). Yet in this period of "punctuated equilibrium," as it were, I did not save every draft and thus what is preserved in my fossil record is, well, a series of gaps.

Much change is not visible. As Antonin Artaud stated, "Inspiration certainly exists." However, he did not view it as the literally sudden flash of knowledge from the blue, and neither do I. During the times when I experienced excruciating "writer's block," which also exists (and which is romanticized and used as an excuse too much by too many writers), I nevertheless knew that my brain was working on the problem the whole time. What religious people often refer to as "giving it to God" or others as "sleeping on it" is something that I call "letting my unconscious do the heavy lifting for a while." Therefore, when the ideas finally came, they were not "sudden" at all, but the product of long, sometimes terrified, wandering and thrashing about that I did - both consciously, and not. Artaud hated it when the Surrealists defined inspiration as the passive receiving of messages from the Marvelous (and as Jean Cocteau, not formally a Surrealist, portrayed it in his film Orpheus) - for him, as for me, the Marvelous was the unseen shaping of an idea, gradual until it reached a boiling point, then constructing itself quickly as if time had sped up.

And yet, this rapid output would not have been possible without the gradual, painstaking assembly that occurred earlier. I suspect that the two cannot exist without each other, because the two actually are each other.
*The natural and the human, "artificial" environment being, of course, another false dichotomy.

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