I don’t even know if I’m alluding to that book title in a way that makes sense, but it will have to do.
So, I’m working on an article that I’m *determined* to finish by the end of this summer. I’ve been toying with it for way too long now because it kept getting moved to back burners because of other work with deadlines, but this summer is free of such deadlines, so NOW is the TIME to get it DONE. (Yes, I’m now shouting. I do that when I get excited. Also, I apparently write in overly long sentences that verge on being run-ons.) *However*, it is proving harder than I expected; that’s where the cheese comes in.
See, once upon a time, this article was about X. Then another article came out on the subject that kind of blew my mind. It didn’t scoop me, but I had to take it into account. As a result, I kept fiddling with what my argument was. From X it evolved into X-and-Y, then more-Y-than-X, then back to X, but dropping Y, and adding Z. And so on. Finally, this summer, I think I decided what I wanted it to be, and sat down last week to map it out. And then this week I started rewriting. AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED AGAIN! AS I WAS WRITING! (See, excited again!) I really should nickname it “Whac-a-mole,” because it feels like playing that arcade game, but the idea that I’m moving my own cheese — changing my mind about what the argument is as I write it, and then needing to deal with that change in order to get what I want (a publishable article) — works, too.
From what I’ve heard, this happens to other people all the time, but this is not at all how I usually write. I’m the have-it-all-mentally-mapped-before-I-even-start type, not the create-as-I-go type. Talk about having to deal with a change in rhythm! It’s kind of exciting, actually, especially since the changes may make it a better argument, but it’s also kind of frustrating, as I really do like to have the abstract whole conceptualized as I write. I worry that I’m working very inefficiently this way, or that the article could become a mess without my realizing it. (Yeah, that’s what another reader is for, I know. I’ll have to enlist a colleague or friend.)
So how do you write? Do your ideas and arguments change as you write? What do you do when they do?