There comes a time in a “good student’s” life at which she realizes she’s been able to elude, for a whole educational career, some skills and processes that might be normal and comforting to other people. Outlining is one of these conundrums for me. And I’ve now hit the outline wall going roughly Mach 12. It didn’t kill me (yet), but I’m pretty sure I’m maimed.
I never knew how not-typical my paper writing process is until I’ve hit upon this little step in the process we over here at my fine institution of learning call “Special Fields.” There will be plenty on that to follow, but for quick explanation’s sake here, it’s a massive literature review. Now, normally, I would sit down roughly two days before a major paper was due and just write–from beginning to end. I would not have any notes written, I would not have a formalized structure, I would not really need to go back and add anything. This was a time-tested (and successful, I might add) process. I’ve never written a perfect paper, but I’ve rarely seen feedback that suggested this procedure might be a problem.
As living, breathing proof standing here before you and god I’m saying aloud (on virtual paper): This procedure might be a problem. The hundreds of titles I’ve had to organize make my old paper-writing process completely absurd. The key to this step is the outline, the organization of this massive amount of material already written. And I have to keep turning it in! In multiple drafts! (Also note here that my former procedure basically mocks any suggestion of drafting…I just have never done it….and now I know why…I hate it.)
In theory, this outlining shouldn’t be so difficult. I’ve always done it, just in my head and in somewhat of a linear fashion. Because of my usual time constraint, I generally settle on a “tack” pretty quickly and go. This process of shaping and molding a system of organization of these ideas makes me think I’m not ever intended to do anything clay-related; I am not a sculptor. But I think I need to become one.
Hopefully, this outline for this culture paper is almost getting done. I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with the nausea. On the other hand , the process wasn’t useless. I came up with a much better, more interesting strategy than I would’ve ever had. But , oh, the cost.