Friday, September 21, 2007

observations on beginning writing

This week I officially started writing! (Yeah!) I decided to begin with chapter two rather than at the beginning, the material in chapter two I find more interesting at the moment.

I appreciate now why so many PhD students stop at this point. I have an incredible amount of information to manage and then to puzzle through. It isn't just linking it together that is challenging (which is fun) but also figuring out why it is important (other than, it just interests me) and what new things all this evidence says about - and, at this point, there is a grab bag of ideas (indicative of my point in the process) - citizenship, US imperialism, class, race and society, race and economy, or any mixture of the above. And I would say that I've only read (ahem, had random contact with) about 50% of the evidence available. I probably won't see up to 20% of it. Nevertheless, I've read enough to distinguish patterns and so I begin to write.

Writing is not smooth, however. It becomes difficult, especially in two areas. One is when I start to describe something that I think is dull but a necessary part of the story (as in, thousands migrated to the US to find work). I try to spice it up by deciphering the reasons why I think I must write about something that I find dull (and that other scholars have already established). And this leads me into my other roadblock. I re-frame migration as a product of imperialism (and the political economy that the US produced in the Pacific) and "looking for work" as a process of integration into the racial socio-economic order already established in the US. All of this sounds more interesting to me, but it runs me smack into another unwieldy amount of evidence - the secondary works. Explaining these events with support from the theoretical works I've read (as well as the secondary historical scholarship) means I have to slow down and comb through this mountain of books, looking for just the place where they say exactly what I need them to say.*

All I want to do is sit and type. I want the words, pages, and chapters to magically flow from my fingertips onto the screen. I am definitely not there - not yet.

*Here is where the difference between the junior scholar and the established scholar is most stark.

By the way, if you haven't seen this new blog, then you've waited long enough.


kungfuramone said...

Obviously, I'm a few years behind you, but I hear you on what you're going through. In particular, regarding combing through theory looking for that one juicy quote so that you can write "see! Famous theorist XYZ agrees with me!"

Rachel said...

It is much harder to find such quotes when no one writes on your topic. haha! :) Or they only write in German, which is much worse, because your interpretation (read: bad translation) of what they said could actually be refuting your idea. I did some proofreading in Austria, and they're much worse about the quoting thing there. We have the "original thought" guilt complex over here.

Trust in Steel said...

It will start to take shape soon, I'm sure.