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Drafting my third essay for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction (#1055)

Topics/tags: Writing

My third essay [1] for The Craft of Creative Nonfiction is due this coming Tuesday. We have a bit more freedom in this essay. Rather than an assigned genre (Place/Travel and Cultural Critique, in my case), we were permitted to choose a genre (other than the two we had already been assigned). In addition, instead of the tight limits (5-6 double-spaced pages), we have much more expansive limits (8-10 double-spaced pages).

I’ve been thinking about my essay for about two months, since some time in February. Since February 20, if I recall correctly. I’ve taken notes on paper, in my head, and on the computer. My head was probably not the best choice; the filing system does not always permit easy retrieval. I guess the same is true of paper. But most of the notes I need are there, and it’s good to let things go. I started my draft more than a month ago and have made some additions in fits and starts. It’s been hard to get what I want down on paper (or in bits, as the case may be).

But it’s due Tuesday.

And I always like to have time to edit and revise. And edit and revise again. Maybe even to get comments from others. I expect to spend much of Monday editing my peers’ manuscripts [2], which means that I won’t have a lot of edit brain left for myself. Tuesday I’m usually a bit overwhelmed after class. There will time to fine tune, but probably not to make too many huge changes.

So this morning, I sat down and told myself I’d make progress. I wrote more-or-less nonstop from about 9:30 a.m. to about 1:30 p.m. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. And edited, And rearranged. And rewrote. And thought. And cursed. And everything else that happens when I’m composing text. I’m surprised at how focused I was. I usually work with music. I didn’t notice when the music stopped. I usually break for email messages. I didn’t notice when they arrived. I usually talk to Michelle. She may have talked to me, but I’m not sure I completely noticed [3,4].

Eventually, I finished something I could call an acceptable draft. I shared it with Michelle because she asked [5]. Then I sat down to write the assignment [6]. I know that’s backwards. But I’d been thinking about the assignment for as long as I’d been thinking about the essay. It’s just that, as in the case of the essay, I had scattered notes, rather than actual text.

Rereading the model piece was helpful. Finding the model piece was also helpful; it appears that I had managed to conflate two pieces in my head. Fascinating. In any case, as I reread the model piece, I found not just the challenges to myself I had anticipated, but also a few more. You’ll find them when I post the assignment [7]. As you might expect, those challenges led me to go back to the piece, edit, rewrite, and even restructure. Since my inclination is often to add, rather than to cut, I also had to consider effects [8]. Adding in one place meant cutting elsewhere. Replacing was a good strategy, at times.

Now it’s 4:00 p.m. [9]. I’ve spent close to a whole day on the essay [10]. It seems best to take some time off and revisit it late tomorrow. I expect that I’ll find a lot to change. I’ll need to remember what one of Michelle’s mentors told her: Perfect is the enemy of good enough. In any case, what I’m writing is not the final version; I expect to get many helpful comments from my classmates and my instructor. But I want to give them something worth commenting on.

I have the essay open in another window while I’m writing this. I shouldn’t. I need to remember that if I keep editing right now, I may break something good. I wish I could write in Markdown or LaTeX, rather than Word, so I could more easily save intermediate versions and see the changes I’d made. I suppose I could learn to use track changes in MS Word. But it seems best not to try to master a new technology right now or at least to spend the learn new technology brain cells on, say, Microsoft Teams.

I’ll stop now.

I promise.

Postscript: You may be wondering what the essay is about, or at least what genre or genres it falls into. Sorry, but one of the rules of ENG-207 is that we do not let our peers or professor know about our essay until we post it. Since at least one peer and at least one prof read these musings, I must reveal nothing.

Postscript: For those who care, the draft of the essay is almost exactly ten pages long, consisting of 111 paragraphs, 3,111 words, or 14,796 characters (not including spaces).

Postscript: For those who are looking forward to the essay, I plan to post the assignment on Tuesday, the essay on Wednesday, and perhaps some of what I learn in Thursday’s workshop on Thursday. For those who don’t want to see that much of my 207 writing, I encourage you to take a break for the week.

[1] I was going to call it my last essay or my final essay, but then I realized that I have two essays to revise. Those will be my final essays.

[2] The 5-6 page manuscripts typically take me an hour or so. That suggests close to two hours for the longer papers. Or perhaps I’ll just attempt less close editing. We shall see.

[3] Sorry Micki!

[4] To be honest, she did check in with me a few times and I did response. It appears that I was signing in frustration a lot.

[5] And because she could fact check the essay.

[6] As you may recall, Prof. S asks us to develop assignments based on model pieces we choose.

[7] On Tuesday.

[8] And affects. It is, after all, creative nonfiction.

[9] Well it was 4;00 p.m., at least when I wrote the first draft of this musing. Or maybe a little later. I’m writing this text at 4:19 p.m. I edited it closer to 10:00 p.m.

[10] Six and a half hours, to be precise.

Version 1.0 of 2020-04-25.