"You already wrote a dissertation. This is so much better than your dissertation."
- When thinking about how to tackle such a big writing project, I tend to remind myself that I have technically written a book already. It is then so much better when I remember that THIS book is one I actually want to write. I WANT this information out there. I have a bit of an empty feeling when I think about the fact that this book does not exist yet. This feeling is completely opposite of what I felt when writing my dissertation. The dissertation for me was red tape. The results of my research were not exciting, so I had little interest in writing them up. I truly believe that no results are still results and in the name of science, that is still information worth sharing, but it's not fun I wanted to share sexy results. I didn't really have them. And even the little bits of my dissertation that I was proud of, I wasn't really "putting them out there" until they were transformed and published in academic journals. Those papers were considerably more enjoyable to write than the dissertation itself. So now I have this book that is all about how I have personally processed and interpreted all the information out there that I could find on the topic, and I am going to share it with my audience so that I can let them know why I am convinced insects were important in the hominid diet, and maybe by the end of it, some of the readers will be convinced, too. I WANT this book to exist, and it won't happen if I don't put in the effort.
- Editing, editing, editing. That's the real name of the game. But if there is nothing produced, there is nothing to edit. It is still so hard for me to put something down "on paper" for anyone to see before I am happy with it. I fear that my logic in early drafts is flawed or incoherent and I will look stupid. I fear that I missed citing a critical piece of research and I will offend someone. I fear all sorts of things, and it becomes crippling. But then I saw these "3 stages of editing." They make complete sense. So why would I try to make something pristine before I started making macro edits? That's a waste of time. The new goal is just to spill out an entire draft of the book so that the vision is apparent. Then I can reorganize and clean it up.
- This advice comes from Karen Kelsky of the Professor Is In where she blogs about a piece by Rebecca Schumann. The take home message is "Write like a motherf*cker. Or, in other words, declare independence from dependence on external validation." I need to just figure out a way to just put the information out there with no inhibitions. BOOM! That's what I think about the mechanisms of evolution. BOOM! That's what I think about diet and evolution. WHABAM! Entomophagy is important.
- As much as I know that I should establish a routine, writing first thing in the morning, prioritizing it over everything else, that has not happened yet. I am not fully into this project enough to not get distracted by every other little thing. I know it can happen, I have found that groove before. I have to write in my pajamas with bedhead and sleep in my eyes because as soon as I take a shower and start getting ready for the day, the power has shifted to prioritizing something else over my writing.
- That's why I decided I need writing retreats. Yes, plural. I need to get away from the distractions of my life in Detroit and be somewhere else. I also need to be somewhere that will help me hold a good routine and keep me accountable of my productivity. In trying to think of where this could possibly be, I was reminded of how productive I become when I am "in the field." Most often, my time in the field is actually spent in a lab in a museum. Here, there are the regular employees who come and go, and I am a guest in their regular routine. When they walk by my door, I feel guilty if I am not head-down and focused, so it keeps me accountable. Therefore, I decided to do a few lab visits this summer, giving myself time beyond what is needed for my other research projects to focus on the book. It's a rough life, but it looks like the first full draft of the book will be written in Zagreb, Croatia and Johannesburg, South Africa. Again, this book won't exist unless I put the effort into it!