I am supposed to be working on an essay that I hoped would be finished in, oh, say March. For awhile, back there during the semester, I was working on it with some diligence, but somewhere around mid-April the press of grading and committee work took over, and writing ceased to progress.

But I’m back to thinking about this essay and how to make it a coherent piece, building from a conference paper, a lot of post-conference notes about what else I wanted to do with it (“post” meaning, here, not just immediately after but over the course of months), and a messy sort of annotated bibliography arranged not by date or alphabetically but by where checking other people’s footnotes sent me next.

It’s time to start a new document, with a new organizing principle. Okay. This one actually seems like it falls into several related-but-discrete segments. This is very nice, because I can think of each segment as a five-paragraph essay. Yeah, yeah, I know, we all dump on that form, but it’s a form I know I have mastered; and if some of those sections are actually 6 or 8 paragraphs, that’s fine; and there will be a revision stage (a stage? if it’s just one I’ll be lucky) in which any 5-graph clunkiness gets refined and developed, and the whole essay gets smoothed out into a coherent whole.

That’s the plan. We all know about plans.

I talked myself into sitting down to write one of those essays this morning, through all the reluctance (“the five-paragraph essay is a joke, everyone will know I’m a fraud if I construct my work this way, and what if it doesn’t go well, then I’ll really feel like an idiot if I can’t even write the sort of essay high-schoolers do for timed exams, maybe I should just go clean the linen closet so I can feel like a procrastinator instead of an idiot”) and got a piece of paper, because I felt like writing on paper rather than on the computer.

First I wanted to look at the spreadsheet that has all the references to Topic A in Author Z, so I could remind myself where the Topic A references appear in this long text. This spreadsheet was a nice mindless piece of work, compiled with reference to a concordance, that I did last year sometime.

It’s incomplete! I thought I finished this months ago. There was a table, in WordPerfect; it became unstable, so I converted it to Word; then I realized I could do a spreadsheet, and figured out how to turn tables into tab-separated text that could be easily imported into the spreadsheet; and I remember finishing this thing. But it’s not finished. Did I remember finishing with a particular chunk? Unclear.

At any rate, I’m back to converting text (and adding tabs manually to some, because of the whole problem with instability and multiple word-processing programs) and pasting it into the spreadsheet. It won’t really take that long. And maybe it’s a good task for a gray day right before a long weekend that I’ll be taking off, anyway.

But grrrr. All my self-encouragement wasted. I could have avoided the little pep-talk about tackling one of the mini-essays and just happily gone back to mindless cut-and-pasting, telling myself that I was staying in touch with the project and would get back to writing next week. Undoubtedly I should just try to write a different mini-essay, one for which the spreadsheet contains all the necessary entries, but this is my version of needing a clean desk in order to work. I need to feel the data is all present and tabulated, available for consultation at any time, before I can go on with this.

It’s probably Basement Cat’s fault. I bet he ate the Spreadsheet Elves when they came to help out.

Updated to add: I think the spreadsheet is done now. But my laptop suffered a BSOD (actually a purple screen, on my machine) while I was working on it. My computer just doesn’t want me to work on this thing. Maybe Basement Cat programmed it, too.

One thought on “Wearing my grumpy boots

  1. Oh, basement cat! Why can't you behave? Hope things get done in spite of his shenanigans. We (Nicole and Maggie) share a gremlin… we've tossed him back and forth across the country since high school. His name is Fred. At first we thought he was a ghost, but now I'm fairly sure it's gremlin. He especially likes plumbing, but is not too picky about what he messes with.

Comments are now closed.