The slow paper


I’m finally writing a paper. It’s one that’s been percolating for about a year. A year, that’s actually not a long time in the making. That’s just the way it is sometimes. As much as you might want it to be otherwise, some ideas just take their own good time to coalesce.

I’ve assumed until recently that somewhere some kind of processing happens. Even when you’re not consciously thinking about the overdue writing, something goes on behind the scenes. So when you come back to the writing, it’s there. Well enough of it is there. You know what to do and how to start.

But I think I’ve changed my mind. Maybe. Perhaps the other option is that you leave the writing and you really don’t process it at all and when you come back to it afresh you just have a new take on it. Because you are somewhere else. And./or you have more energy for the writing task.

So is it percolate or nothing happens? Which option makes more sense to me? Well, my thinking is that this is currently a choice between a car and a sourdough starter.

The car. We have a relatively new hybrid which we left in Australia at the beginning of this year. Now hybrids have two batteries. There’s the stonking big and expensive battery which does all of the alternate power work with the fossil fuel. And there’s the teeny little battery that gets the whole system going.

So we were away for a while. And we knew from experience that there was a pretty strong chance that the little battery wouldn’t work when we got back. In other words, the car wouldn’t start. We’d have to get someone out to jump start the little battery (and the car). That’s what we were expecting.

This was not to be. As it happened, the little battery wasn’t just out of juice. It had actually died while we were away. So we had to get a new one. I won’t bore you with how inconvenient this all was, but it was.

But what we learnt was that, while we were away, the teeny little battery wasn’t inactive. It kept busy doing little things. Beavering away. Working with auto data. Whatever. Even though the car wasn’t used, the little battery was working away in the background till it just ran out of energy.

The sourdough starter. We not only left the car in the garage when we were away, but also abandoned the sourdough starter. Normally we would put the starter into the freezer. Into a cryogenic state of complete shut-down. Which it really doesn’t like and takes ages to recover from.

But this time we didn’t do this. We left the starter in a jar in the fridge. I can’t even remember why we did this. Anyway, we weren’t there and the starter wasn’t being fed regularly. We expected that we would come back to a science experiment and would have to start the starter all over again.

Well I have to say that it didn’t look too promising when we opened the fridge door. Sat in its little cold coffin for months, the starter had gone more than a little off colour and crusty around the edges. We thought the worst had happened. It wouldn’t revive. We’d murdered our starter. It was an ex starter. It had ceased to be.

But you know what? After a good feed, and a bit of TLC and a good talking to, the starter was back to normal. It assumed its usual healthy colour and consistency. It is now powering the bread just as it used to.

The choice. You can see where I’m going with this I’m sure. It’s simply that I’d rather think of my promised but not happening paper as a starter in waiting, rather than an idea that is still being worked on in the background – but where I might run out of oomph. When 8 try to start it up again nothing happens.

Yes I know. There’s nothing here that is particularly helpful for anyone writing. Where is your weekly handy hint I hear someone ask? Perhaps it’s simply that it’s OK to wait for an idea to come together. You dint have to think you’re being productive all the time even when you seem not to be.

If you look at my blog strapline you’ll see I also promise patter idiosyncrasies as well as writing about writing. It’s been a while, but this is one such odd thing. No rhyme or reason, it just is what’s in my head today.

Battery or sourdough, which do you prefer?