For anyone who has blanched at the uphill prospect of finishing a long piece of writing, this book holds out something more practical than hope: it offers a plan. The Clockwork Muse is designed to help prospective authors develop a workable timetable for completing long and often formidable projects.
The idea of dashing off a manuscript in a fit of manic inspiration may be romantic, but it is not particularly practical. Instead, Eviatar Zerubavel, a prolific and successful author, describes how to set up a writing schedule and regular work habits that will take most of the anxiety and procrastination out of long-term writing, and even make it enjoyable. The dreaded ‘writer’s block’ often turns out to be simply a need for a better grasp of the temporal organization of work.
The Clockwork Muse rethinks the writing process in terms of time and organization. It offers writers a simple yet comprehensive framework that considers such variables as when to write, for how long, and how often, while keeping a sense of momentum throughout the entire project. It shows how to set priorities, balance ideals against constraints, and find the ideal time to write. For all those whose writing has languished, waiting for the “right moment,” The Clockwork Muse announces that the moment has arrived.
Eviatar Zerubavel takes issue with books on research and writing that imply that checklists and synopses of resources and literary texts are all the equipment a writer requires to start a research project. In The Clockwork Muse, he assumes that writer’s block is natural, pervasive, and tends to prevail regardless of an individual’s ability, ideas, and resources. He argues, therefore, that any writer’s first task is to insure himself against this paralyzing condition by commanding the ‘procedural’, not the ‘material’, aspects of producing a manuscript. The basis of his philosophy is ‘temporal organization’: self-disciplined planning—‘methodicalness and routinisation’—result in manuscripts written well and on time.
Zerubavel understands that the writing mind is inherently perfectionist and that writing is a strangely and dangerously self-engrossing process. His advice ranges from simple time-management schemes—so simple yet so hard to observe—to important tips about how to exploit the computer. The computer, however comfy for those wild writings beloved by the Camerons among us, is essentially an editing tool: a tool of self-criticism. Zerubavel emphasizes that the writing life is actually a life of self-editing, of revision. That is why it is hard; that is why it is exciting. Not just for academics, The Clockwork Muse belongs on every real writer’s desk.
- 128 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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