Chipping away

Sometimes, I like to believe, I do manage to blitz things. There was that summer (2015?), when I banged out two articles in a couple of months, and in 2016 (?) I completely re-wrote the biggest piece of the MMP from scratch so that the style would be smooth instead of a weird patchwork of revisions. Both those periods saw focused, concentrated work . . . over a period of weeks . . . which still needed to be revised and tinkered with for months after the initial “blitz.”

In other words, I don’t really blitz my writing. Even when I do have weeks of writing 1000 words a day, and get a whole essay roughed out very quickly, it is still a longer, slower process than I like to believe. Somehow I remain attached to this notion that sometimes writing goes fast, despite all the evidence I have from my own life, never mind Boice’s surveys, that it really doesn’t.

Fast is relative. I’m still working on the last remaining hunk of the MMP, one that got an R&R awhile back (I’m not mentioning how far back, too embarrassing, but I fully expect it to be treated as a new submission at this point, that’s how bad it is). I’ve worked on it every day for 28 days, since starting a new document in place of trying to alter things in an old one, and it is now up to 5233 words. That’s a little less than 200 words a day, on average. While I was away, I managed close to 400 words a day. Since I came back, I’ve had a few days (teaching days, tired days) when I just tinkered with footnotes or added translations of Latin quotations. But I’ve touched it every single day. Judging by the length, I should be near the end. I’m not going to predict when it will be done. I’d like to get it out by the end of the month, but I wanted to get it out by the end of December, too, and that didn’t happen. There will be editing passes, and footnote-checking passes, and pretty soon now I expect it will be finished. Again.

A month or so to write an essay would be fantastic if I were starting from scratch. Obviously I’m not; I have a lot of material to work with for this piece. Part of the reason it has changed so much is because of working on other pieces of the MMP, and on the introduction to the translation, which gave me more insight into elements of the present essay. It was originally the more literary arm of the MMP, but now has a bit more manuscript in it than it did at first. When this chunk is done, I’ll start something fairly new, not quite totally from-scratch, as I did a lot of preliminary work in the fall so that I could write the abstract for a conference, and it’s kinda-sorta related to the Huge Honking Translation project. I’m wondering how fast I can make it go, and whether it’ll be a chip-away 200-words-a-day project, or if it might be a 1000-words-a-day-for-a-week-then-revise sort of thing.

I wish I could get over this fantasy about fast writing. I think it has something to do with the enthusiasm I feel when I have those concentrated weeks in which I write a lot. That energy makes it feel like I wrote even more than I did, and I remember the energy and enthusiasm more than I remember what really happened and how much time I spent revising and tinkering.

Of course there’s bougainvillea

There is also beach glass:

And beach rocks:

Feral chickens, of which here an example:

Red hibiscus:

Here’s our rent-a-dog:

And white hibiscus:One jigsaw was too easy, and the other was too hard. It’s coming home with me. Maybe Sir John and I will be able to work it when we have more than a week.

Syllabus status: written. Article: still coming along. It now stands at 3360 words, and when I’m back to my stacks of books at home I expect I can finish it off reasonably briskly (knock on wood, with the help of the Lord and a long-handled spoon, all that). There’s a book coming ILL, and another I’ll need to get from LRU’s library. Why can’t I ever . . . but I think I asked that recently, and answer came there none.

The rent-a-dog was very sweet, but I am eager to resume my regular duties of worshiping and attending on my feline overlords.

Wait till next year

It is not really the end of a decade. Start counting at 1, not at zero. You knew I’d be pedantic like that.

Day 12 of steady research/writing, still working on the long-overdue R&R, but I now have 1600 words in the new and improved version, so I’m at least 1/4 of the way there. I gave up on the document that has all-caps notes to myself saying things like “ADD PARAGRAPH ON ANGLO NORMAN SOURCE HERE” and just started over, although of course I can transfer large hunks of material from that document into the new one. It’s easier to think on a blank page, and faster to just do it my way than try to argue myself into doing it some other way.

I hope to keep the chain going. However, Queen Joan and I are off tomorrow on one of our royal progresses to warmer climes, so we’ll see. I also have class plans to work on. I hear vacations are lovely, but I’m fine with working in a more exotic setting. It is a great pleasure to noodle around with something interesting on my laptop while looking out at blue seas and tropical birds, rather than staring out at snow and bare branches. So I look forward to putting in an hour or two every morning before we go out sight-seeing, then come back to work on a jigsaw puzzle.

We know how to have fun! Tonight we’ll be turning in around 8:00 because of an 0-dark-thirty departure tomorrow morning. Woot! So Happy New Year now! Enjoy the Eve, and happy writing (and other pursuits) in 2020: finish off the decade with a bang!

St Thomas Becket

Time flies; I thought I’d done a Becket day last year, or maybe the year before, but it was 2015. My reasons for liking Becket have not changed.

In this morning’s work (10th consecutive day), I’ve read parts of a book I should have read a decade ago, a brilliant book whose author is now a professor at Oxford. It’s making me want to go in the garden and eat worms.

There should be plenty; it rained overnight.

Comparisons are odious. When I was young, I didn’t have a single-minded focus on medieval studies, nor an educational system that forced me to focus early. I’m not so much a late bloomer as a slow bloomer. Maybe this is because I keep getting distracted by new, shiny projects, some of which get done before the old ones, some of which take their places in the shifting relays of things I work on in sequence. Eventually I finish, and the ideas are (I hope) richer for their long gestation and cross-influences.

Will no one rid me of this turbulent desire to have been different? I can only be who I am. It’s way too late to be anything else.

Holy Innocents

If you like colo(u)ring books, here’s a link for you:

http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/

I hope you have time to indulge before you go back to work.

Today is the 9th day in a row I have worked on the article I’m trying to finish before the New Year. I feel like it was written by someone else, and I’m trying to re-make it in my own voice, as the scholar I am now, not the person I was when I first put the essay together, certainly not the person I was when I wrote the conference papers it was based on.

I am never again going to write a conference paper. I will write articles, and boil them down into conference papers if I want to go to the conference, but building longer pieces out of short ones just does not work for me. If it works for you, carry on, but if you’re like me, or suspect you might be, consider this permission to stop doing what isn’t working (even though it’s standard advice).

That said, I still have a couple of papers from last summer that I wanted to write, ideas that may be part of The Putative Book, and may be spin-offs. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Feast of John the Apostle

The joye of sayn Jonez day watz gentyle to here.

British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x. (art. 3) f. 104/108 verso (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight lines 999-1035)

http://contentdm.ucalgary.ca/digital/collection/gawain/id/317/rec/136

Actually it’s a very quiet day chez Hull. We both slept very late. I’m still working on my writing project. Why can’t I ever just do a little light revision instead of re-thinking the whole dratted thing?

The potentially-dramatic Xmas gathering of my family seems to have gone fine, as even my Brother Less Reasonable could find nothing worthy of report. Good for them. I’m still happy I stuck with my husband, his mom, and young Alan.

The Feast of Stephen

Boxing Day, for some. It’s been Box Day around here since a Chewy.com delivery arrived on the 24th. The cats have been thrilled with the empty box and rustly paper. Better than catnip, they said.

Here’s one of my presents from Sir John. He certainly has my number (and if he didn’t, I’d give it to him).

We had a good time watching Die Hard with his mom. Young Alan Rickman, yum.

25 December 2019

Right, it’s that day when nearly everything is closed and people with happy families are together being all alike.

I’m going to do some writing, as I have managed to get back into a long-postponed project; go to the gym (open for a few hours, yay); open presents with Sir John if we can get to them before the cats shred all the wrapping; and spend the afternoon at his mom’s. Just us: the rest of his family is doing their individual-family thing.

I have not spent Xmas with my family since 1986. For many years, it was my policy to avoid them on major holidays. In the last decade, Sir John and I have twice gone to mine for Thanksgiving. The first time was lovely, except that Sir John came down with a cold and spent most of the visit sleeping. The second time was an unmitigated disaster and has led me to a renewed determination never, ever, to visit for a major holiday. They are having a big shindig today that, given the list of attendees, has the potential for major drama. I hope it will all work out fine, but I am very happy to be a couple thousand miles off-site.

Whatever your situation, I hope you have a lovely day. I vote for peace and comfort over merry and bright, but you do you.

Family visit

Sometime he angers me
with telling me . . .
such a deal of skimble-skamble stuff
as puts me from my faith. I tell you what:
he held me last night at least nine hours . . .
I cried “hum,” and “well, go to,”
but mark’d him not a word.

Advice from William Shakespeare, I Henry IV III.i

How we spend our lives

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

— From “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard