Featured Post

Anxious gatekeeping

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Franklin has asked me the following question:
I've always wondered about the notion of a "stealth attack" on an article that you've used on several occasions. You've sometimes used phrases like "...before it can put up resistance" or "before the project knows what's hit it." (I'm paraphrasing.) These are metaphors, of course - the -article- isn't doing anything, even passively. But the author is. I wonder if you could say something about what kinds of resistance you have in mind, and what the "tactics" of such attacks might be.

Articles and larger project loom large in our minds. They can be scary and intimidating, resulting in procrastination of very slow, tentative starts. The stealth or sneak attack is a way of getting around this intimidation by conceiving of the task as a resisting force, ascribing a metaphorical agency to it that, of course, it doesn't really have. Suppose a chapter is going to put up resistance to me writing it. If it knows I am about to write it, it will marshal resistance. But if I don't tell myself before hand that I am going to work on it, then I can just surprise myself and do it before "it" (me) is aware of what is happening.

On a less metaphorical level, the sneak attack simply means writing an inordinate amount in a short period of time in order to make rapid but substantial progress on it. Most of your writing won't be done that way, but it is a helpful change of pace in certain circumstances. Aside from the work produced, it has the benefit of letting yourself know what you are capable of when given a block of time and an opportunity.

Metaphors like this help in the writing process because they shape behavior. I favor agonistic metaphors because for me they are motivating, though I wouldn't encourage anyone to use a metaphor just because I use it. Develop your own by all means.

1 comment:

brownstudy said...

The UK coach and writer Mark Forster (markforster.net) has a method he calls "I'll just get the file out." The mind is feeling fear about something related to the task, so taking a micro-action like "I'll just open the file in Word" is telling the mind that, no, we're not working on that fearful thing, we're just opening the file. Subterfuge. Then you can say, "I'll just read this paragraph," again quelling the rising fear by doing something harmless. Keep doing these little micro-actions and eventually you get lost in the flow of the work and the fear leaves to return another day.