..and I don’t actually need to binge write. I need to finish.
I have no idea why people pick November for this, but there are NaNoWriMo and NationalThesisWritingMonth and AnyGoodThing. All of these wonderful initiatives seem to be good for writers and help them solve problems. Unfortunately, they don’t solve problems that I have as a writer.
For the last 6 years at least I have been puttering around in a set of ideas that has become a manuscript tentatively titled Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment. Apparently the biggest part is publicly announcing the project, so there you go. As the title suggests, this is not written to be a crossover hit and you should not expect to find it at airport bookstores. It is a bit of a departure for me as an academic writer. It has four chapters, with no intro (violating my first and highest rule of academic book writing) and no conclusion (which I firmly believe nobody will miss). There are two chapters on voice, one on hearing, and one of fatigue. I have not yet figured out where squirrels fit in.
Because I am very stupid/very smart/know myself too well/have unrealistic expectations, I committed to my sound seminar students that this manuscript will be the last thing we read in the course, so they could see my writing in all its glorious messiness before it is published and looks better. I keep telling them we perpetrate this fraud where we talking about writing like it sprung forth from the author’s mind fully formed.
I estimate that I need to produce about 12,000 words this month. Maybe a bit less or a bit more, and this number includes citations, bibliography, and quotes from other people. That part is totally within the realm of the possible. Word count IS NOT THE PROBLEM I HAVE. Distractions and self-doubt aren’t my issues either, so I can spend all the time I want on social media or noodling on musical instruments and don’t need to be too worried about how fast the words come, because they ebb and flow and because I am a very happy person with a word processor window open and my desk a mess.
In fact, my problem as a writer is I love being in the middle of writing. I love going down rabbit holes. I always take time for the bizarre cheap laugh even if it’s at best orthogonal to the argument. Can I write an entire history of the intertwined fortunes of psychoacoustics and information theory through cats? Why, yes I can.
So my problem is a) doing what I’m supposed to do and b) finishing projects that have no actual word limits or time limits. And because I’m writing in a slightly different idiom than usual, I also have some new technical challenges. But it’s time, dear readers, to get this one under review and to get comments from from friends and colleagues.*
So this November, I am binge-finishing.
Even so, my rough weekly goal is somewhere between 3-4000 words. What I need to accomplish in November: cap off one more chapter, and then turn a mass of ideas and notes and readings into a coherent argument about fatigue that is readable by human beings.
My campus time is circumscribed to Wednesdays and Thursdays (which are my days “for other people”) and an occasional afternoon or evening event. I write best in the morning anyway. I am incredibly, caught up with letters of recommendation. I have no theses to read. I have a bit of reviewing to do, which will happen weekday afternoons. I’ll keep the entertaining fairly minimal.
I have booked all Sundays off, and Saturdays are for writing work only. I sometimes like to work for 60-120 minutes after dinner, but only sometimes, and only when I feel like it. I am not going to push too hard.
Here are some dates:
November 26th, I will assemble the full manuscript (all 4 chapters in one doc, continuous pagination, ToC, and instructions for readers. I will then send it students. I might also just go ahead and send it to the press for review and to colleagues for comment, since I’ve done the work.
November 25th. I will spruce up the fatigue chapter, which Carrie will have read on the 23rd (or sooner) to tell me what it needs in short order.
By November 11th I will be working with a human-intelligible structure in my fatigue chapter such that I will have clear signposts for when parts are done.
November 4th and 5th, I am hoping to cap off my chapter on audile scarification, which needs a re-organization (it’s top-heavy with theory, and now repeats stuff that has been moved to the first two chapters). If I need some time on the 9th, I can also use part of that day.
This schedule only semi-factors in two things: 1) surprise work from other people, which I may have to accommodate in some cases (page proofs and the like) and 2) feeling like crap, which happens about once a week, and doesn’t always preclude writing (but might be good for the data-entry part).
When I am feeling good, I’ll do the intellectual heavy lifting. When I am feeling bad but good enough to work, that’s time for data entry–quotes, bib, looking stuff up, etc.
In case I fail, my students get a manuscript with an unfinished final chapter and I try to round things out the first week of December, or even the second week.
In December, I would like to play with my synthesizer more, so there’s the reward. Also, starting in February, Mara Mills and I will be making the run on the other book I’m working on. Yes, I’m working on two books at once. NEVER DO THIS.
*If you are eager to read the draft version, and are willing to a) provide comments on at least one chapter within 2 months of receiving it and b) promise not to post it on the internet or share it with other people until it’s cooked, you can send me an email.