My mother used to be a teacher. (She still is, actually; she teaches ESL as private tutoring now.) Like many teachers, she viewed long papers as a good way to train students to organize their thoughts with an outline, and then put them down and flesh them out with the paper. As she reminded me while visiting for Thanksgiving, one of the incredibly frustrating moments in her life was watching me come up with a paper the morning it was due, while on a thirty-mile car trip to school.
After days of procrastination (from her point of view; she didn’t see any progress when I told her “I’m thinking about it!”), I slouched in my seat in the car, and wrote the rough draft of the paper, then looked at it and wrote the outline from that, and then used the outline to write the note cards with the ideas and facts… the very ideas and facts that should have been written first, then used to create an outline, and from thence the draft.
She was even more upset when two days later, the paper came back with an A+. That’s not how that’s supposed to work!
I’d forgotten about this incident, but she hadn’t. Last night, when she walked into my office and noticed I was frowning at a WIP, I told her writing a first draft is often like reaching into a blackberry tangle to find and pluck the right words out.
And she laughed. A lot. And then told me about that report I’d written when I was a teen, and she’s unsurprised that my process hasn’t changed.
Love you too, mom.
…by the way, it’s been decades, but I found I could easily get in touch with my feelings of awkward teenage embarrassment. All it took was trying to write a scene with some innuendo, and right as I’m getting a paragraph down, my mother pops into the office to want to talk about my brother. Um. Let me just, uh, awkwardly save and close this, um, no, it’s fine, mom, I’m not going to be getting back into the writing headspace anyway, and you’re here visiting, so let’s chat!
Does that happen to anyone else?