The trouble with writing a paper on a topic you’ve already considered…

…is that you already know how you feel about the problem, and you’ve already formulated your opinion.

For me, that is the hardest place to begin writing. I like mystery, exploration, the unknown, that which has not yet been made visible.

I hate re-hashing what I already know or think or feel as if they were fresh thoughts. I hate trying to render my existing knowledge and theories into an interesting essay.

I prefer to not know the answer, and to not even know the question. I prefer to begin by exploring a nagging feeling, or an impression, or some other sensation that arouses my curiosity. These initial considerations inevitably do three things:

  • propels (compels) the development of thoughts throughout the rest of the paper
  • creates a position which results in the formulation of a question or a problem
  • gives me a host of things to “unpack” for the remainder of the paper

The first and last are quite similar, but different. The first is about an emotional-psycho-social propeller that creates an emotional arc through the work. The last is about having a treasure chest of analytic, empirical, lingistic or otherwise debatable points to dissect, describe, and with which to persuade. Whereas the first is about engaging the humanity in the reader, the last is about exercising the intellectual. 

What I hate is having a host of things to unpack, and no emotional propeller with which to start the whole discussion.

I need that ultimate first story – a fresh, compact, compelling metaphor for the rest of the writing to come.

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