Beginning, Again

Amusingly enough, my very last post of 2005 was about the difficulities of beginning a new large-scale project. That project, which I planned on spending my sabbatical with during spring 2006, got somewhat overcome by events, primarily the take-off of planning for MediaCommons. That project, called Archive, is one I hope to return to at some point, but it’s wound up getting even further back-burnered over the course of the year, as I realized that the conference paper I’d written about blogging was in the process of morphing into an article, and that it was threatening the boundaries of article space as well, turning into a full-length project, whether I wanted it to or not.

As it turns out, I’m excited about the blogging project, which I’m thinking of as something book-like but not book-ish, something that will almost certainly live in MediaCommons. But figuring out how to get from the article to the full-scale thing is proving, once again, daunting. Where do I begin?

Last year, Francois asked whether a technical solution might not do the trick, helping me to, as he said, “keep in focus a configuration of an unfolding.” This year, thanks to my friend G., I’ve found such a tool, one that I’m still experimenting with, but that I think might do the trick: Scrivener. The software is still in beta right now, but it’s got some awfully great features designed to help take a writer–of any kind–from a fuzzy notion of some too-complex-to-imagine text to a draft. It produces outline views, corkboard-and-index-card views, draft document views; it can contain research notes and objects alongside but separate from the draft-in-process; it allows for some complex uses of metadata.

I’m in the very early stages of imagining the full project, and I’m quite sure that I’m dead wrong about some key aspect of it as yet, but I think the malleability of Scrivener’s uses of text will allow me the simultaneous flexibility and structure that I need in getting started. Which, I hope, will make the getting started less daunting.

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