Tag Archives: Writing Exercises

Third Nugget from Clockwork Muse- Mountains and Stairs

Nugget #3…
Now Eviatar shifts to chunking tasks.  He calls this, quite nicely, “a mountain with stairs.”

Two points resonated for me.  First, about outlines, he suggests only outlining or changing outlines _between_ final drafts.  This may be part of my problem with “code rules” as it has been restructured five times, at least I think. Not all of these were after a final draft was done.

Second, he advocates writing and then revising in stages.  This more useful for my students than for me, perhaps, as I am already a committed reviser.  They still think, most of them, that writing is getting your ideas on paper instead of realizing that writing is another form of thinking.  They think it is a mistake to rewrite, instead of normal.

Now, to complicate matters, the idea of the mountain with steps is appealing; common-sensical too.  Break down the seemingly distant and difficult task into smaller, feasible steps.  I have climbed mountains.  I absorbed *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance*.  I have told hiking groups I led that to climb a mountain you have to have the disposition of a cow.  The difference is that in those cases, I usually know which way is _up_.  In writing, I find myself wondering if these steps are really the right steps to take.  I especially wonder if I am going up at a good rate, or, even worse, going down.  Efficiency and failure trouble me more directly than self-doubt that I will finish.  In mountain terms- I worry now about going sideways or downhill more than about whether I will ever get to the top.

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Second Nugget from Clockwork Muse- Priorities and Constraints

*Nugget 2*

In next chapter,  Eviatar (he could be a Tolkein Elf) discusses scheduling.  This is one of those topics that always seemed self-evident to me even as i struggle to do it. Kind of like pedagogy.  But with age comes humility and I have been more willing to work on the self-evident instead of assuming it is self-materializes due to its obviousness.

The schedule is a reflection of priorities overall, and Eviatar states that your writing priority has to “fit” with your other priorities.  He acknowledges there are external constraints.  But on p 17 he writes: “Nevertheless, we usually have much more control over our time than we are willing to admit to ourselves, and if you are seriously committed to giver your writing a high priority on your schedule you can normally manage to somehow find the time to write even under extremely difficult conditions…”

In general I agree with him.  However, more than creating a schedule, the challenge for me is managing the priorities.  This is a bit like the other topic on “how to say no.”  Is working with my daughter’s need for more exercise an external constraint or a priority?  Is choosing to have equitable gender roles with my working spouse a constraint or a priority?  Is feeling compelled to teach in a very labor intensive way a constraint or a priority?

Ultimately, those goals or aspirations which compete for high priority with writing are facets of my identity.  So, asking me to prioritize is also asking me to rearrange my internalized identity.

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The Clockwork Muse– Nuggets on Writing

So, I have several books on writing and academia I have been lugging around all week. Some I have scanned before, some not at all. Since I will never sit down and read a whole book on writing process- just seems too much like a luxury- but I also believe that they are likely to be helpful, I decided to just spend a few minutes each day scanning for nuggets. I would rather jot these down here since I like sharing and it feels less frivolous to read and write for an audience beyond just myself.

One of my best academic friends here, Roger, who is also my writing group partner, recommended The Clockwork Muse. It is by a sociologist, Eviatar Zerubavel. That name rocks.

The nugget today is the title which elegantly skewers the misguided notion that writing is a moment of feverish inspiration bestowed by a muse. Writing comes from self-discipline and habit, centered on the notion of time.

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