A steaming hot cup of perfectly mixed caffeine, sugar and a whole ton of milk. Laptop charged and bright, at the ready. Notes, highlighted and on full display in front of the keyboard. Earplugs snuff out the last of the surrounding human interactions and quirks.
Stretch back, warm up fingers, settle in.
I was ready to type up some magic.
This is an almost uncomfortably familiar scene. Although the coffee might not be so tastefully balanced. The computer might only be half charged. Those notes might not always be so orderly and the earplugs might not block out sound as well as I’d like. It might not always be Tchaikovsky. However, all variables aside, this was my workstation, my finale, the death to my black swan–you get the picture.
It was always in this setting that long pages of words strung together, pieced painstakingly into comprehensible sentences, into paragraphs, into research papers.
But before all my masterpieces can come to life like this, there’s the hair-pulling, the other all-nighters, the library-dwelling, the obsessive time-wasting, and all the carefully well-laid plans and notes and schedules and reschedules.
There was my process.
Behind those first few words that would be followed by an almost uninterrupted mayhem of hours and ideas colliding together until the final word appears on screen, there exists the ceaseless researching and collecting of notes. It’s always inevitably tragic, stretching out days and weeks until I can’t take it anymore. Until I become so desperate that I have no other care in the world except my determination to just start writing in order to precipitate an end to all the endless clawing for more. More notes, more evidence, more support, more, more, more.
Miraculously, with those first few words, everything flows out and it all makes sense. Those scrambled, misplaced, frantic notes fall into place. Within a few hours, half the paper have basically written itself. Two hours, 2000 words. At this rate, six more hours would do the trick.
By the first morning light, my typing speed has dropped to a pathetic 20 words per minute, my eyes can no longer perform their only duty, and my brain was as dead as if I had just been bitten by the zombie next to me. The cup is empty except for that last drop which stubbornly refuses to be drunken. That sweet, sweet 4am treat has long been digested. Everywhere I look, zombies, unmoved by dawn’s beautiful arrival.
That last half an hour is the hardest. The struggle to the top, to that last word. The final ascent takes twice as long as when I first started at midnight.
Finally. Definitely. Permanently.
Well, basically complete (except for the bothersome footnotes and bibliography and title page and all that formality).
I shut everything down except my automated movements. I make it home without conscious knowledge or recollection of how I did so.
And I collapse into a full day of uninterrupted, quiet, dreamful comatose bliss.
Until my roommate starts blow-drying her hair in the middle of day like the world might end if she doesn’t.
This is my process.