I’ve spent the better part of today scribbling in a notebook and mapping out possibilities for the talk that I’ll be giving at the end of the month. The struggle I sometimes run into is that I tend to start in the middle, with a handful of viable theses, which I then proceed to connect up. Then I’ll trace each of them outwards to possible sources, associations, and examples until I have a huge tangled mess of stuff.

Actually, that’s not the struggle. I’ve (always) got plenty of material. The trick is smoothing it out and paring it down until I have something that will legitimately fit into the 15 minutes or so I have. And then adding in more citations and connective tissue and paring it down again. Like everyone else, I’d imagine, I have to find the balance between having enough context and making a point clearly. Pull one string out, and I might make what’s left that much more manageable. I might also cause the whole thing to unravel.

Generally speaking, I work backwards from the first major point that I want to make for my introduction. Almost everything I write tends to work that way–to make point C, first I have to provide context A and transition B. And then I have to provide context Y and transition Z to get to A. And so on. I almost always cut the first 5-6 pages of writing to get myself to a viable first draft for …

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