Another day, another memory of writing. Not all writing is inspired or original. Sometimes, it’s just a grind, taking ideas we’ve read a thousand times before and regurgitating them in our own way. Other times, it’s required, for a research paper or a class you’re taking.
9 P.M. on a Saturday night. Spring, 2008.
I’m supposed to be at work. And, I am. The student supervisor at the college library on a Saturday night because, well, I didn’t have a real social life, so what the hell was I going to do on a Saturday night? So, I’m at work.
Work isn’t taking much effort. Not many people are in the library yet. Finals aren’t for another week, so no one’s really packing it in. When that happens, you won’t be able to find a free table or chair. For now, it’s slow.
Beside my chair, slumped on the ground, lay my backpack (the same one I carry with me to work right now, actually). Inside my backpack sits a chemistry paper—already written, researched, cited, and footnoted—I had just retrieved from my professor’s mailbox outside his office. Written on artificial metalloenzymes and their affinity in protein bonding, I had notes from my professor on how to improve the paper. And, the next morning, Sunday, he had set aside time in the morning to answer any questions students might have about his notes. 10 A.M. On a Sunday. I think he had church before that.
Side note: When you’re given an entire semester to chose a subject, research, and write a paper, waiting till the last minute is not a good idea, as a proper paper is often—at minimum—12 pages, more in all likelihood when footnotes and graphics are added.
That’s a long way of saying ‘I have this paper and it’s Saturday night.’ Obviously, what I need to do was ignore the notes and enjoy my Saturday. Which is what I did, right? Except, not so much. I took the paper out and read the notes.
Work closed at 11 P.M. and I headed back to my apartment, still working on the comments.
4 A.M. Sunday Morning. My brother, who lives in Japan at this point, sent me an IM (remember IM’s?). What could I possibly be doing up at 4 A.M.? At this point in my life, 4 A.M. is late. That would change in the next two years, but, as always, that’s another story.
Still working on my paper, I tell him. Full of energy and enthused by the notes and the process of making the words I put on the page, well, better. So, basically, I spent most of Saturday night working on a paper, then got up the next morning and went for more notes.
I mention this particular memory because, while this particular event doesn’t revolve around fiction or creative writing—unless you count chemistry as science fiction—writing and editing a research paper on artificial metalloenzymes wouldn’t actually make the list of what anyone thinks of as “fun”.
Except… to say this:
The feeling that drove me to pick up the paper and fix it are the exact same emotions I feel when I get deep into editing my creative works. The excitement and the drive, the adrenaline surge when I know I’ve nailed that line and conveyed with efficiency and detailed the point I wanted to. Putting red ink to paper. The flow of a scientific paper and the process for writing one is, for me, similar to creative writing. I identify the points I need to make, the goal of the paper (or chapter), and fill in the blanks.
All writing isn’t the same, I know that. But, certainly, the drive to clarify my vision with the written word feels the same. The feeling of success knowing I’ve completed that paper and that someone else will, hopefully, learn something or enjoy what they’ve read. Those aspirations remain the same. The sense of elation remains the same.
And, isn’t that the point?
One small side note: I forgot to write the abstract on the final paper. When my teacher pointed this out to me the next morning at 10 A.M. I added it. In the process, splitting a graph across two pages. Never split a graph across two pages.