Freewrite

Writing Practices

While pulling together some job materials this weekend, I got out ye old Sage Handbook of Qualitative Methods (5th ed)–see below–and stumbled upon this scribbled delight, this marginalia wormhole (could we say wordhole?–that seems weird) to the Summer of Dissertation…

Image of a page in a textbook. In the wide, blank margin, there is a mess of words and terms and lines in red ink. The writer was obviously trying to organize their thoughts on the book page. Above the book is a desk with a mess of objects--tape, glue stick, earphones, paper, stickers, cords, pens, post-its and more.

Instantly, I more-than-remembered; I was. Her: Grad-Sarah frantically scribbling red on the only still-clear space in sight. My desk: drowning in a sea of books (open, closed, sideways, upside down, all around), a pile six (maybe more) deep and twice that wide stretching between me and the computer screen where brilliance was supposed to be happening yet (as far as my delirious brain and beleaguered heart believed) brilliance was NOT. The event: something on the page triggered momentary clarity, chaos distilled for a moment that only lasted long enough to try to capture it…

I probably never looked at this note again until today.

There were a lot of those moments: still, sharp certainties that the project would coalesce and finish. They came in to-do list after outline after chart after sketch after brain map after voice memo after shower revelations after walking notes on the iPhone. They didn’t last. They repeated and replaced themselves over and over. Their replication and revision did the deep work; they were a doing that moved us forward, one moment of clear hope to the next until we were somewhere I never, ever thought–drowning in the rest of it–we’d actually get.

Yet here we are, over a year after finishing, flipping pages on a new project and meeting our words from then, our frantic red ink on indifferent white paper, and we are her again but another her who knows she’ll make it. I don’t think she believes us.

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