How I'm writing an essay


Please, consider this one as an ongoing journal of my new academic work. I’m writing it here (instead in my own pieces of paper) because it may reveal something of how a work can grow - or, as an alternative, how mental illness can be revealed.

I started this work on my iPhone, tapping as fast as possible after having come out of the office of my teacher. He proposed me a very rough, apparently impossible thesis, matching ideas that had not been matched before. Obviously, I immediately accepted, because it was a very fascinating challenge.

The long note continue to grow during the following few days, in a continual exchange between PlainText on the iPhone and TextEdit on the Mac. In the end it was only TextEdit, accommodating all the snippets I was cutting from books on paper and in digital form, as well as my copious ideas on ways of linking very far concepts.

When the TextEdit document was so long to be next to explode, I moved everything to Scrivener. I started breaking it down in separate parts and chapters. Snippets were moved to the matching chapter. I created links to let an internal net of references grow. The (always varying) outline in the Binder was the basis of the various synopsis drafts I wrote. Up to a clear, readable idea keeping my universe together.

Now, I’m ready to move this ordered maze of ideas out of the Draft folder, to the Research folder. The real Draft will grow from the synopsis, progressively populated by snippets, elaborations of references, newly created text.

This time I didn’t use DevonThink for gathering ideas, simply because there was no time to scan, transcribe and/or grab from the net snippets. I had to type as much text as possible, leaving the remaining materials to bibliographic references pointing me to the original texts. All considered, Scrivener can easily tolerate this kind of reference materials.

Going on…


How about speaking to Dragon Dictation on the iPhone, passing the text to SimpleNote, then to DTP or Scrivener, or to the forum for instant responses from Vic, Jaysen, Wok, and the crew?

You know, from your mouth to the ear of …

I would love to be able to dictate my thoughts. I’m not able to do it: it’s as if I was always under observation, as if someone was insistently waiting for my words. Thankfully, touch-typing on a good keyboard can be very fast.


But that is already the case. We are all waiting. Some more patiently than others.

After moving my initial materials to the Research folder, and starting to reshape the synopsis for the actual Draft, I discovered a bizarre phenomenon: the displaced materials lost their quality of “prototype”, and just became a collection of “reference cards”. The way that material was initially structured started losing relationship with the final draft. The final draft is becoming something totally different from the prototype. What was once an outline, is now becoming the structure of an archive, separate from the structure of the essay.

The Research folder in Scrivener is becoming the same as my typical folders in DevonThink: initially an outline, then simply a repository of materials. The actual work is taking its own form, like a statue emerging from the amorphous piece of marble.