institute for documentary studies

{Week 11: Writing}

Week 11: Writing

When my life because messy, my room becomes messier. Piles of clothing accumulate on the floor, and stacks of paper on my desk. I stay up late, eating toast in bed, and in the morning, I rush to class, not even bothering to tuck in my sheets. My physical mess adds to my emotional chaos—I feel more overwhelmed, less in control of my context—and vice versa, creating a perpetual feedback loop.

This continues for up to a week, until one day I look around and realize I am living in entropy. Then I fold, sweep, clear out unwanted papers, and put away all of my shoes, and everything starts to make more sense.

We’re down to the final month at Salt, and my story (and my room) is in a sorry state. For a while, all was well and tidy—I was excited about my topic, eager to interview my subject, and confident I was headed in the right direction. Now, I have done most of the research, I have the elements, and I’ve reached an impasse; I don’t know how to reconcile the interviews I have, the information I need, and what direction I want to take my story. Reading through my material, I feel like I am trudging through a swamp, and dread threatens to paralyze me.

Okay, just a tad dramatic. But things get serious at Salt, and it’s easy to forget that a world exists beyond the five-minute walk from my bed to class. The Salt panic is an artificial urgency; must find story, must interview, must write, don’t sleep, don’t eat. But the more my mental and physical health suffers, the more my work does.

I am the kind of person that needs eight hours of sleep, three meals a day, an occasional walk in the park, long phone-call with a friend, and lazy Netflix Sunday. The kink in my neck from last week’s post was most likely caused by the fact that I hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep in three days.

Rather than letting the dishes piles and the dust build up on the floor, it’s time for me to get back on track. I met with Mira during class on Tuesday, and as always, she calmed me down. I just need to focus, and narrow my vision, and make sense of my material. I have more transcribed notes than I know what to do with, and not enough time to delay writing in order to gather more research.

After I met with my subject yesterday, I took a detour and bought a cookie at a delicious South Portland bakery. A small pleasure indeed, but just letting myself sit on a bench on a weekday afternoon and eat a cookie was the nicest thing I had done for myself in weeks. Then I took the bus back to Salt, edited for five hours, went to a story workshop led by Peter, read the news, and went to bed. Finally.