With just a few weeks left in the term I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly at another writing project that has to be wrapped up shortly, my own chapter for The Hobbit and History. To that end, I’ve pulled out my pile of books to which I’m referring, rifled through the articles I need to draw upon, reread The Hobbit and skimmed through the subsequent trilogy including the appendices as well as parts of the Silmarillion plus The Unfinished Tales. In other words, I’ve poured myself back into the world of Middle-earth.
Project immersion is the best way for me to get from skeleton outline to finished composition in a short time. I have to live and breathe the world I’m trying to recreate, whether its the story of 17th and early 18th century Londoners playing out at the Old Bailey or the adventures of people long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Along with that, I try to come to terms with the key scholarly themes – how can I ensure I’m relying on up-to-date and accurate assessments of what other practitioners are saying. This is just as important in my pop culture pieces where I will range wide and far in time and space, relying heavily on other historians to help me understand and assess many different cultures and scholarly treatments, as it is for my conventional academic writing where I need to engage with the most important and current interpretations.
As the immersion progresses, I start muttering to myself, hopefully sotto voce, testing out key themes or possible sub-headings. I drift off to sleep with important examples running through my brain. I wake up ruminating over key arguments. I peel potatoes and I ponder primary sources as yet untapped. I jot down a note about how to bridge two different sections in between errands.
And then? I write. The whole draft’s finished in just a few days but don’t be fooled. I couldn’t get my project done if it weren’t for the initial immersion.
What about you? How do you get revved up to write?