For the last two years, it seems like, I've had this research idea bobbling around in my head. I've written an article that's tangentially related to it--actually, the research idea came out of the early stages of the article--and, in September, I gave a conference paper that was intended to push me towards articulating SOMEthing of what I've been thinking about. (Basically, it's the use of a type of image in a type of medieval text; one of the problems has been that I've defined this image so broadly that, at times, I wondered whether I wasn't just making the whole thing up.)
I've also been reading, for the last two years, all sorts of books and articles that might be relevant. Some have been extremely helpful; some have just sent me back into doubt about the existence, relevance, and/or interest of these images.
I've tried, on several occasions, to write up a sort of prospectus or abstract of the "book project" that I claim will come out of this interest. I've even submitted an application for a course release that borrows from these various prospecti.
But the trouble is that I've been spinning. This happens when I just think and don't write: the idea doesn't go anywhere, maybe because I feel like I need to make sure that I don't forget it. Thus: more doubt, more torpor, more pointless thinking and, eventually, exhaustion. Before I'd even got started.
This week is Spring Break, however, and I had decided to start Writing An Article this week. It wasn't looking good over the weekend; in fact, I've spent much of the week getting ridiculously ahead in my courses (I've prepped through next week and read through the week after that, and I also sewed a curtain--which has nothing to do with my courses, but was an accomplishment, nonetheless). But I did sit down on Monday and start sketching in a bit.
I think that I've worked between 30-60 minutes every day this week (meaning Monday-Thursday). Some of that was patching in bits of a conference paper and two different abstracts; I've also copied and pasted notes on articles, revised sections of all of this material, written notes to myself, and pointed out half a dozen places in which I need to elaborate.
And I've got something like 6000 words (22 pages). What the hell? I've hardly even said anything yet. Yet if I were to actually elaborate on all of the "elaborate" notes, I'd have something like 60 pages of an unholy mess of stuff. Could it be that there's something there? As I write (mostly in a stream of consciousness, pre-writing sort of way; and I should perhaps note that I'm a very fast drafter), I'm having new ideas; things are coming together. I think that I've even managed to figure out why this one text counts as a text that uses the image I'm interested in, even though it actually doesn't. Hey! I think that I have a point.
Granted this draft--as you could doubtless gather from the preceding paragraph--sucks mightily, and is truly a disaster of composition. But it's a start, and I really, really needed a start. I like revising--I'm good at it--it's the drafting that's hard. Once the draft is there, I'll have something to work with, and I'll know, more or less, what I need to do.
(Of course, the odds of my getting anything of substance done on this project between March 21 and May whenever-graduation-is-this-year are very, very slim. But at least the summer will start off with a little less random flailing than usual, I hope!)