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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, December 3, 2010


Consider the following record:
Nov. 5: 100 words.
Nov. 7: 600
Nov. 10: 1.100
Nov. 12: 2.000
Nov. 13: 2.400
Nov. 16: 3.200
Nov. 18: 3.500
Nov. 19 4.200
Nov. 20 4.500
Nov. 24 5.000

Before I kept rigorous track of how many words I wrote, in Obsessive-Compulsive fashion, I did not know how and when the work got done. I'm not saying that the work did not get done, but it bothered me not to know how this happened. Time could slip away without me doing very much, or I could overestimate / underestimate the length of time something would take. Having a chart of how many words I work on a particular project allows me to evaluate exactly how much I can reasonably do.

Here for example, I note a span of 10 days, with an average number of words of 500. Veee-ry respectable. I notice that I am able to put two or three days together, and fit in these 10 days in a span of 17. That's good without being extraordinary.

This way I am accountable to myself. Remember that my appointment calls for me to do research for 40% of my total effort if not time. I like knowing exactly what goes into that, because otherwise it is a rather diffuse commitment. I could spend a year just on the scholarly base if I wanted; I'm certainly entitled to that at this point in my career path. While I'm working on a major project, though, I like to know what the results of my effort are in very precise terms.

If you know how much you can write, then you can correct problems and make plans. You might say: wow: "I didn't know how slowly I write; I need to have more frequent, or longer, writing sessions." Or "I can write a lot on days when I get around to it, but those days are few and far between."

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