Sunday, October 23, 2016

Writing as pure pleasure

One of the things that blogging provides me is reassurance that I can still craft a decent bit of prose, take pleasure in my writing, and see something through from start to finish.

I start to doubt this with my academic writing from time to time, especially when, as now, it's been a long time since I finished up a polished piece of writing: it's been two years since I last submitted a final draft of an article and longer since I sat down and wrote a new essay from start to reviewer-ready finish.

I've done plenty of writing since then, of course; in addition to bits and bobs for my edition, I've written two entirely new book chapters and some unrelated conference papers. But although all are coherent and satisfactory for what they are, they still reflect preliminary work. I can't say I'm proud of them. Their ideas are bolted together in ways that are basically functional and maybe technically up to code--but I wouldn't want a building inspector looking too closely at any of it.

As a result, I've been starting to worry that I've lost whatever style or elegance my writing used to have. Maybe, I fear, I've gotten better at the idea part of this game at the expense of the craft.

Hopefully this fear will be resolved once I finish the essay that has taken over my life these past two months (and which is due by the end of the semester!). But my writing personality being what it is and academia being what it is--a place of infinite deferral and where all projects seem endless--I don't expect any sense of relief to last long. Even if I'm tremendously pleased with this essay, there will always be another in which I'm mired for months or years.

A blog post, though, rarely takes me more than a few days. I fret over the sentence rhythms and the paragraphs, spending more time than I often should--but at the same time, I've got a life and other things to do, so the perfect never becomes the enemy of the good. It's writing as almost pure pleasure, and I need that as much now as I ever did.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I certainly understand what you mean. I have been focused so much on creative writing for the last year, that it's been a long time since I've submitted an article that I feel good about. I need to go back and revised the article that will not die, and then work exclusively on my book. I'm excited to get to that, as my conference paper seemed like a distraction. But thanks to being at the conference, I have thousands of new ideas and am freshly motivated. So it's a give and take, I guess.

But don't be too hard on yourself. I absolutely loved your paper that I heard this weekend! Very inspiring!!

undine said...

Same here, Flavia! I have a couple of overdue pieces that are at the bolt-it-together, pulling-teeth phase, but a blog post reclaims the sense of fluency and fun that writing needs to have. I never spend much time on them, and they get the pump primed, so to speak.

Flavia said...


Re: priming the pump: I remember bloggers saying that back in the day--back when we were all blogging daily; how long ago that seems!--and I never really "got" it. When I wrote a long, thoughtful post I sometimes felt that that was it! That was my writing for the day. It was hard to see the relationship between the two, in writing terms (though I always found blogging psychologically important, in ways that benefited my work).

But now I do see the relationship as more mutual. The ability to take pleasure and pride in my writing, and to see something through to completion, feels more important to me now than ever. Even a well-crafted Facebook post or tweet (because naturally I take care with them, too!) gives me pleasure.

Funnily enough, I find my blog posts take longer now than they used to, and that's one reason I blog less. But they still don't take that long--if I find I'm still tinkering with one on a third day I generally just tell myself to get over it and get some version of it out in the world.

And Fie:

Thanks! Great to finally meet you in person.