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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eaves-dropping on your own thoughts

Chances are you have a lot of thoughts related to your own project. You can listen to those thoughts and write them down as they occur.

A few things might happen. Sometimes the thoughts will be too inchoate or inarticulate. You can write them down, sure, but they won't make very much sense. To make sense of them you will have to write them in coherent sentences of prose, but this process is often very laborious.

If you spend too much time worrying about the shape of the sentences, you might misplace the ability to eaves-drop on your own thoughts. You have to develop some quickness here, some agility or flexibility in order to surprise yourself thinking, or to recognize a thought in your head as being an idea that you need to write down.

We've all been at the stage (in life, or in a particular project) where we seem to have suggestive ideas, but they can't quite make it to the page. I've seen it in myself and in my colleagues and students. I'm optimistic, though, that you will find a way to get the ideas down.

You are the person listening to your own ideas, taking dictation. The work is not having the ideas, but interpreting them, making sense of them. We say "It occurred to me that..." Ideas pop into one's head. Light bulbs flash. If not, it means you are not engaged enough in the subject matter, or perhaps not a good enough listener.

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

One can present the results as the story of their discovery: "Then it occurred to me that ..." But part of the work is left undone then, the work of really arriving at results. That's the shift from eaves-dropping (taking dictation) to editing.