I’m now ten days into the Forty Days and Forty Nights challenge, one-fourth of the way through. My total word count as of this evening: 8291.

I have met my word count every day except yesterday, when I did not write a word. Today I achieved 568. Except for these two, I have succeeded at producing a thousand words on workdays, five hundred on weekends and holidays. If I continue to produce 8000 words every ten days, I’ll have not 20,000 words but 32,000 by 31 December.

I could wish more of them were continuous prose. Much of what I’ve been doing lately involves listing brief quotations from a Middle English poem and its Anglo-Norman source, in columns, under various headings, trying to work out which images they share, how often the speaker refers to himself as “I” or “we,” how many times each version refers to singing, writing, or other forms of narration. The translation, of course, is not literal, but sometimes Anglo-Norman images reappear some stanzas further on in the Middle English. At some point I will turn this raw data into prose—I mean into excitingly incisive analysis of the medieval lyric—but for now I’m still listing and thinking.

And today I printed a nasty dirty draft of the overdue essay, to be edited (cut, pasted, excised, added to and rewritten). I’m sure other things I’ve written have come more easily. I swear I remember other essays almost writing themselves after I had an outline. Is this like childbirth? Have I just forgotten what it was like, those other times?

Without losing sight of the main goal (500 words a day, every day; on weekdays, 500 on each of two projects), I want to add an hour of editing time to weekday work. We’ll see how it goes. If I have to work out some equivalencies (500 words of new writing = one hour of revision), I can accept that, but I’d rather treat editing as a separate kind of work.

Next report in another five days. I’m hoping to get around to giving you some more cat pictures in between. We do have others besides Basement Cat, after all; they should get their moment of fame.

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