Today I tried to ease myself back into research writing mode. Rusty is not the word.
I was anguished by fears that what I am doing is a load of crap. Who will want to read it? Will it be shot down in flames by an academic referee before it's even published?
After two weeks away from it, I was not intellectually sharp enough to get to grips with it straight away so I decided on the much more nuts'n'bolts task of editing the interviews.
How boring they appear to be, or I appear to be making them. I want the accents there, the idiosyncrasies... but you can't write them down like that or you lose the impact of the content.
But what content?
You see, I have become over-familiar with them; they are merging into the academic prose style that the essay is written in, and I have to pull them back from that and allow the amazing personalities of the interviewees to shine through. There are so many notes, follow-up questions: it's not easy.
As I edit, I relive the places where we spoke. The jazz club, the park cafe in Leyton, the airfield in Aylesbury with skylarks peeping and skimming the white sky above (yes, really).
Later, I ventured into Battersby's Gender and Genius to patch up a hole at the beginning of the essay. The beginning is very good, because I always begin at the beginning whenever I rewrite it. But now I have learned that I need to wrench myself into the middle in order to shore up the weaknesses there. There's a fat rant that I'm trying to slim down, and a delicate criticism of a colleague that has to be articulated as clearly and carefully as the petal of an anemone. I have to start at page 57 next time, which will involve digging deep into books that I'd put aside as spent; more writing led to yet more questions and I know where the answers are, thank goodness. But when you're glued to the screen and the keyboard, something makes looking between the pages of an actual book seem like 30 years hard labour.
I am hovering around 26,000 words of essay which should slim down to 25,000. It has been an incredible journey of reading and thinking and has two more months to bake in the oven before I can declare it cooked and ready to be eaten. By sharks, or by fairies? Who knows.