Wednesday 30 March 2011

Just write

Recently, I have been concerned to make sure that my inaugural post on this blog was up to standard, but then I thought I'd take my own advice.The other morning I found myself extraordinarily tired, for some reason or other. My brain just wouldn't do as it was told. Nothing that I was reading was going in, and nothing seemed to help wake me up.I picked up my pencil."I'm too tired today," I wrote. "I just can't get my head into a place where it would be able to get, out of Sara Hunter Graham's book, the angles and arguments that will be relevant for my study of the AERA.""The first point is clear," I went on. "Graham's work studies the NAWSA as a political pressure group - she sees it as a model for pressure-group activity. This is of relevance to the AERA. However, her concentration on questions surrounding the winning of suffrage and what that meant to organised feminism (questions addressed by O'Neill, among others) is not so relevant to the Reconstruction women's movement."A little while later, I had written several thousands of words. I had covered many topics, from the structure of my literature review, to the general potential structure of my APG report, and further avenues of analysis I would have to explore.And so I turned a potentially wasted day into a time of real intellectual exploration.If you ever find yourself in some kind of intellectual rut, just pick up a pencil and see what comes out. Start by writing down what you're trying to do and why you think it's not coming together. Ask yourself questions - write them down as headings. And if you don't know the answer to any of those questions, ask yourself a new one: "why don't I know?"You might be surprised at what comes out. Anyway, it beats wasting the day pointlessly surfing the net.