Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough


I’m seeing a few things on the web today that I identify with… a bit too much. First, even before I read the post, I felt a shudder of recognition (or was that someone walking over my grave?) when I saw the title of Sarapen’s “Today’s Paragraph”… I have to string together far more paragraphs than Sarapen does – and feel the same dismay when I perseverate over one of them…

Then, from is there no sin in it, A White Bear mentions a novel technique for carving time out for writing your thesis:

Back while I was writing my MA thesis, which was bad, I would often get so stressed by my lack of productivity and the social demands made of me that I would walk into my friends offices and declare, “If you need me, I’m dead.” Dead people don’t have deadlines, and they don’t have friends. We can all recall them with fondness, and then be really impressed when they come back from the grave with a few more pages written and time for a night at the bar.

My version of death allowed for five-minute phone conversations, during which I would reiterate the fact of my death and the instability of my undead spirit, which must return shortly to the grave. I could also occasionally be seen drinking coffee and eating lunch, but I assured those who saw me that I was, in fact, dead, and that they must be dreaming.

Being dead, I could ignore the news, the phone, the doorbell, my parents, my roommates, our cat, and the television. I could attend a party and not speak to a single soul. It is not within my current abilities to talk to you, you see. I’m dead. It was awesome.

This is awesome. I am so doing this. My version of death, I suspect, might include the odd seance with my reading group, and a bit of haunting of favoured websites – my coffeeshop alreadys sits on the boundaries of the nether realms, so I’m certain to be found lurking there. But I’m happy to surrender phone conversations entirely, and I suspect I won’t be material enough to answer knocks on my office door or to respond to invitations for social events. My goal will be to return from the grave having left a number of pages behind, as my writing struggle of the moment is to figure out how to focus and distill a mass of content that I had not originally intended to include in my dissertation, and that I had therefore written situationally, without the intention of tying it together into a linear argument that could be read and understood by people not embedded in the context in which the writing was done… Those people who tell you just to write – that it’s always easier to revise, than to start from scratch: I don’t think they’ve encountered writing quite like mine…

4 responses to “Ghostwriter

  1. Sarapen March 12, 2007 at 9:36 am

    That 2000 number was pretty much pulled out of nowhere. I’m not sure how many I’ll need, I just know I’ll need a lot more than what I have right now. But being undead is definitely something to aspire to. You know, I saw Castaway for the first time last month and actually felt envious of Tom Hanks: “Damn, I wish surviving for one more day was all I had to worry about.”

  2. N Pepperell March 12, 2007 at 10:23 am

    I think I may be reaching the point where surviving for one more day may be all I have to worry about… ;-P And, whatever your number is, I’m sure mine is higher – so, if you do more precise calculations, don’t tell me – I don’t wanna know… ;-P

  3. Zapaper March 12, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    Awesome post. I wish it worked for me. But when I act dead to the world I also feel too dead to write. Somehow, I do better with a balance. Maybe it’s because I’m not yet in terminal stage dissertation writing mode… maybe it’s because I’m alone in a foreign country. Anyway, good luck!

  4. N Pepperell March 14, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Oh, I’m only mostly dead… ;-P The main issue is actually that – really only very, very recently – I suddenly have this proliferation of people who want to drop in for quick chats or invite me to social things. Which is all well-intentioned, and I value these overtures deeply – it’s just that I tend to be one of these “small circle of friends” sorts of folks at the best of times – and my schedule right now is not what I’d call the best of times… So I’m trying, as gently as possible, to carve out some time and space that I can reliably spend as I’d like, without worrying about work-related interruptions – even interruptions with a social intent. It’s proving remarkably difficult to achieve. Hence my envy for the dead… ;-P

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