Flourish August 2005
vol. 1, no. 6
A friend is wrapping up her book on the history of a genetic disease before sending it to her university publisher next month. She has found herself thinking a lot about how the book is put together as a whole. “In each chapter, I keep asking myself, what's the big news here? How do I keep the main arguments in focus? I'm afraid that I've fallen in love with my data.” Since she is a historian, this is an occupational hazard. It can take so much time to get one piece of information that you want to make it fit no matter what. Her publisher has already warned her about having too many endnotes, so she can't just bury the extra information there. So, she keeps on going through the revising process and the drafts are piling up. In telling our writing group about these thoughts, she talked about her numbering system for drafts. “I get up to 25 drafts, and then I start a new series, so now it's Chapter 1, Draft 5, New Series 6.” Someone else responded, “Hey, you're pretty organized, my drafts look like this: Chapter 1 Final, Chapter 1 Final Final, Chapter 1 Final Final Final, Chapter 1 Final Final Final No Really.” Half the writing group laughed hysterically, the other half looked puzzled. I was one of those, cough, laughing. What's your numbering system for drafts?
We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
–From Frank Tibolt, A Touch of Greatness (San Dimas, CA: Mushtaq Publishers, 1999). Sent in by subscriber, poet, and critic Harryette Mullen.
The Horror, the Horror
Some Useful Research Phrases and Their Translations:
It has long been known… (I didn't look up the original reference.)
A definite trend is evident… (These data are practically meaningless.)
Of great theoretical and practical importance… (Interesting to me.)
The most reliable results are those obtained by Jones… (He was my graduate assistant.)
It is believed that… (I think.)
It is generally believed that… (A couple of other people think so too.)
It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding of the phenomenon occurs… (I don't understand it.)
Correct within an order of magnitude… (Wrong.)
Thanks are due to Joe Blotz for assistance with the experiment and to George Frink for valuable discussions… (Blotz did the work and Frink explained to me what it meant.)
A careful analysis of obtainable data… (Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of beer.)
–Allegedly from Graham, Jr., C. D., “A Dictionary of Useful Research Phrases,” Metal Progress 71, no. 5 (May 1957).
News from the Editor
I don't often get much writing done in July and August, because I am teaching forty students to write academic articles, but I have been able to get a little time in every week this month. It helps when busy to work on a piece of writing that I am excited about, that I have a clear outline for, and that is fairly descriptive. I can then make good progress. Meanwhile, I've been thinking about surveying faculty members about their writing habits and advice for students. I may have to table that idea until next year, but the few professors I had fill out a test version gave such interesting answers that I am eager to get on to that project as well