Thursday, May 04, 2006

Writing - Part I: Throwing stuff onto paper

or onto a glass screen coated with alchemy and bombarded with a stream of electrons

Sitting in my ideas file is a list of multipart or recurring topics to write about. One of these topics is writing itself.

I'm currently working on a funding application for my PhD, involving Seahorses (genus Hippocampus) and the University of Zurich. In the process of writing this 10-page formal panhandling, I'm getting lots of good feedback from the potential PhD supervisor in Zurich, Dr. Tony Wilson. A few days ago I sent him a very rough draft of what I had so far, which is mostly a series of loosely-related paragraphs introducing the big ideas behind what I'd like to do for my doctoral work. He replied today, and was quite positive, which is nice as I was tormented by a quiet voice in the back of my head that kept saying things like "it's crap, he'll hate it, he will be horribly disappointed with you for writing this shite" et cetera.

Anyways, one of the things he said early in the email was
So far so good... You've been good about getting your thoughts down on paper, which I find to be the toughest part of writing a paper. Now the polishing begins...

This is really positive, but somewhat surprising to me. I find one of the easiest parts of writing to be the initial vomiting of text onto paper or a computer screen. Actually, I can type much faster (and orders of magnitude more legibly) than I can write, so the computer screen is more relevant.

There's an adage that was given to me repeatedly while I was writing my M.Sc. thesis: Good writing is re-writing.
I find this to be completely true - the first pass of information I commit to the keyboard is generally pretty close to unreadable, but I only have to go through it twice to craft something fairly good. Excellence, of course, takes much longer.

So now I have to stop procrastinating here, which I justify as writing-practice, and return to this funding application. More text-vomiting, but also much more editing and re-writing. When I feel the need to procrastinate some more, I'll write part II of this open-ended series.

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