Outlining and Writing

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday on our way to class. He’s writing a paper in mathematics based on some work he did over the summer. A few weeks ago he showed me a draft with just a few revisions left to make on it, so when I asked him how it was going yesterday, I fully expected him to say that he was finished or just about. Instead what he said was, “It’s a lot harder to write a paper during the school year.”

It’s been a long time since my last update on my research and the reason is exactly what my friend described. Over the summer I could dedicate as much of the day as I pleased to reading. When I wanted to write, I could spend a whole afternoon on it. Before I got to school I had twenty pages written and was beginning to wonder how people got so stressed out by these projects. Then class started, friends started, my tutoring started, grad school apps started, a play started, and my thesis stopped. It’s only been in the past week or two that I’ve been able to dedicate anything more than the time in the shower to thinking about France and the direction of my paper. I’ve had to adopt an incremental writing process where since I never have more than thirty minutes to an hour to work, I focus on expanding my outline as much as possible rather than writing complete paragraphs.

And while I know that the result of that will be a much easier writing process when the time comes, I do wish that I had more to show for me work. The 25 pages I’ve now finished are essentially a long prelude, and when people want to see what I’m working on, when I prepare writing samples, I have to accept the fact that hardly a word of what I have so far overlaps with the really interesting portions of my project. It’s frustrating not to have more concrete successes to show people. Even my outline is so laden with code words and allusions to my own twisted mnemonics that I wonder if even my advisor knows what it’s about.

In the past week my schoolwork has begun to cool off and so I’ve been working furiously towards more tangible progress. I have a feeling now that if I want to finish everything on my plate it will be a requirement that I get something done in every empty moment in the day. And with that I think I’m off to work.