2017 was not a great year for me, especially on the writing front. 2013-2016 were. In 2014 I finished my PhD. In 2015 I wrote the better part of a book on South Asia (more on that anon). In 2016 I wrote the equivalent of a book in conference papers and internal white papers (also I had a pretty good article in War on the Rocks.)
In 2017 – so far – I dithered with a couple of papers that were almost done, but still not quite – maybe I’ll finish them on Sunday…
But hanging over all of this is my dissertation, the topic of this blog. It needs to be a book. There are even publishers willing to talk to me about. But it has to get done. Anyone can tell you that a dissertation is not a book and my writing skills are good enough (not amazing, but pretty good) that with some work the book can be more readable than the dissertation by several orders of magnitude. Plus, while the book won’t be as analytical as the dissertation, the fundamental question has inverted.
In the dissertation I asked, “Why did the VP go from nothing to something.” But now I want to know, “What does the President gets from the VP?” The first question has been answered adequately – not just by me. The second seems more interesting and insightful.
My dissertation is the raw material, but I have to break it apart and reconstruct it. It was hard enough assembling the 130K words of the dissertation. Now, I need to break it all down and rewrite it. It’s a lot of work, and I have a day job (which also has a lot of writing projects.) Doing this takes time and I have not had tons of it between a real job, a long commute, and kids who need to be driven places constantly.
I thought I would take the holiday week off and really invest some time into the project. I have a decent intro and my Mondale chapter is in pretty good shape. But that’s been my status quo for over two years. I thought if I put in some serious time up front and sort of “broke the seal” I could get into a rhythm and bring the project together.
This involved going to bed and waking up early (both of which I hate) and getting serious writing hours in each morning. It hasn’t gone so well.
Over at War on the Rocks, the eminent Van Jackson has been journaling his efforts to write a book in six months. Honestly, it’s been heartening since he’s terrific and like me knows his topic back and forth (so he isn’t doing fundamental research, just writing.) Still, some of his good days are only a few hundred words and he too loses hours to rabbit holes and anomie.
So, in that spirit, I thought I too would share my writing experiences, intermittently. Of course in my case, this might just be another procrastination mechanism – writing this when I should be, you know, writing my book. But, here the words flow, whole post was less than 30 minutes and it is nice to get this stuff off my chest.