Thursday, April 30, 2009

Done, done, and I'm onto the next one

That research essay I was sweating over? It’s done. After a final few days tweaking down to the exact word I wanted in the exact place in this sentence just here. Oh, and cutting a good thousand-plus words – I always write way too long and my dump file for this essay could have been another in itself. The whole process of re-writing and final editing seemed oddly… organised this time, though. I actually had time to get through four drafts. The first two were pretty choppy, but the second two were really in the world of refining ideas and crystallising the argument structure, not the initial ‘how the hell am I going to make sense out of all this??’.

I think I’m finally starting to really internalise the advice to ‘write early and often’. Normally, I’d do ALL the reading and research, and make ALL the notes first. Then I’d go back through the big pile of notes to start outlining the essay. But this time, I’ve been making notes in a Word document as I go along, sketching out the main planks for my argument (and noting what sort of evidence I need to support them and where in my big pile of notes I’ll find it), and also collecting particularly good quotes and points that I may want to develop. So, when it came time to write the first draft, I already had something of an outline to work with and I could immediately see which parts were going to be worth keeping and expanding, and which were going to get jettisoned.

So, it’s finished and I even had a couple of days in hand to do the final fiddly bits like checking all my references were properly formatted and that I’d included everything I needed to in the bibliography. Now it’s been handed in, I go into ‘doubt’ mode. Yes, I wake up in the night thinking was my argument clear enough on that point?’ and ‘oh crap, maybe that bit I jettisoned was actually really crucial’.

To take my mind off things for a few days before I move on to the next one (British Marxists or the Annales school – I haven’t quite decided yet as I find both groups really interesting), I am doing my usual little ‘junk food for the mind’ indulgence. Yes, for the rest of this week, it’s going to be OK magazine and some crap-ass reality TV. I admit that last night, I even watched ‘Rock of Love’ with Bret Michaels! Thank god for C4, MTV and the E! Channel.

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