The romance of the winter writing process…

These days I spend a lot of time working on my thesis.

I have fond memories of the particular kind of stress and quiet work that I did when I worked on my undergraduate thesis. I don’t think I was enjoying it then, but the memories of it–five years ago, now–have softened and I remember more kindly the late nights in the library, post-it notes stuck all over the wooden desk-cube. I particularly remember the old Compaq that I was using when I first started writing the paper: it was a laptop that had been given to me when it was past its useful stages. It didn’t have a battery, or built in wireless–it needed to use one of those cards. I don’t think the card for it worked, either. I transferred everything via USB to my HP desktop, to the desktop computers in the basement of the library… I was a mastermind of transference back then.

It’s this time of year that is really best for deep, hibernation-style writing. It’s cold outside and there isn’t much sunlight, though it’s more than it was a month ago, so there’s a little bit of hope on the horizon. Flurries skirt around outside the window, and you can watch them in the security lamp-light as you think about your next sentence–your next point. Most people are feeling like hibernating themselves, and so your social life becomes less demanding. You ponder the way the bare trees branch out from each other. The way they shudder in the wind. And as this all happens you make thoughts. They pop up in pixels on your screen and keep marching on–getting moved around, re-worked, deleted, re-written.

In some ways I really am very fond of this process. It is a stressful process, but when things start to come together, when you are able to settle into it, then it begins to feel like home. I experience plenty of inertia over the writing process, but it is certainly one of the places where I feel the most at home–crafting ideas and putting them into words. It’s one of the reasons I love preaching–the crafting and writing of the sermon.

So, snowflurries dance around your head and stick to your eyelashes while you walk home from the library. From college, I have fond memories of people being around when I would get home. I would visit other people’s houses after the library, hang around and do nothing. Move from the home of the writing process to the home of other people’s simple company. Me and my friends would yell at each other about our various papers when we went to Cub Foods. Then we’d go back to someone’s house and cook dinner. I have a particular memory of Chicken Tikka one night.

The most important part of that whole process is the way in which spring sort of eases its way into it. You start writing in the dead of winter, when you’d rather be hibernating and when the words are, honestly, a bothersome sibling that you can’t shake when you’d much rather be curled up on the couch hating the snow. But then you start working and things change. You lean into the rhythm of it, and the days begin to get longer, and the snow begins to melt. The weather gets a little warmer, here and there, and for a while it gets disgustingly muddy–but finally there are buds on the trees. Just as your ideas start to shape themselves, just as things begin to really come together like they haven’t before, and you’re starting to feel proud of yourself–spring starts to peak in. It changes those walks to and from the library, now filled with the smell of fresh air–instead of pondering swirling snow. It changes everybody’s mood in the place where you’re going. Now those trips to Cub Foods are even more charged, full of silliness. Your friends and your thoughts are all joyful, calm, in need of care but certainly sitting there with you.

Anyway, I think about these fond memories as I dig my heels in for the writing process of this Masters thesis now. Toying with words, walking around deep in thoughts, meeting up with folks after a long day’s work and settling into simplicity. It’s definitely a place I can be at home in, and I write it down to remember that. It’s certainly a good thing about the world I live in now.

Leave a Reply