Thursday, August 22, 2013
Book Review: The Clockwork Muse
Here in the far northern U. S., summers are short. Already the vivid greens of the forest outside my window are taking on a golden cast. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and yet there's a feeling of melancholy, a sense of weekend jaunts not taken and swimming not indulged in and people not visited--fun, summery things that pretty soon will have to wait until next year. I'm aware of time passing at a speed it does not possess in the dead of January. I wish I could grab onto the hours and make them slow down. Since I can't, the next best thing is to make the most of every hour while I have it in my grasp.
Eager to wring the most productivity out of those hours set aside for writing, I picked up a slim volume titled The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books by Eviatar Zerubavel. Published by Harvard University Press in 1999, the book is mainly directed to students and other academic writers, but I'm finding it filled with practical advice for anyone tackling a major writing project, from a book project to a school assignment to an annual report at work.
Zerubavel, a professor of sociology at Rutgers, helps the reader sidestep writer's block, procrastination, burnout, and the clammy anxiety that too often accompanies the blank page by establishing a schedule and regular work habits. He covers all stages of writing, from planning to outlining, drafting, and revising. Some of the suggestions will be old news to the seasoned writer, but for those who find themselves craning their necks to see the peak of an intimidating writing project, this book will help bring it down to a manageable size. And happily for the time-pressed reader, the book is short enough to zip through in one or two sittings.
When I can sit down to write with full concentration and a clear road-map of what I need to accomplish, I can devote fewer hours to writing, giving me more free time to indulge those last heady, precious days of summer. If it's been a while since you gave your writing habits a tune-up, pick up a copy. And as kids head back to school, your favorite young scholar might also benefit from reading The Clockwork Muse.