Upcoming Thursday, I'll have to defend my philosophy thesis. This requires an extensive preparation, especially since I've written this dissertation before I went to England, a year ago, and haven't looked back at it since.
So, ideally, I would lock myself up in the library, reread all texts I used and my notes, memorise key passages of my dissertation and do some more research into both translation theory and the philosophy of Walter Benjamin.
But... I couldn't resist surfing the web for interesting job vacancies; read In de mist van het schimmenrijk” by W.F. Hermans; arrange interviews with several important people in The Netherlands; write the synopsis of my novel so that I can send it to an agent; read Ruth Rendell's The Monster in The Box and write a review for www.OpSpraak.net (conclusion: it's a thriller in the tradition if-you've-got-a-lion-in-a-cage, someone has to forget to close the cage. Unfortunately, some emotional lions remained caged, while plot-technical lions escaped from cages I hadn't seen before.); organise my graduation party and surf the discussions on LinkedIn. Someone posted the question “Do you play games with language in your wrintings, or do you stick to the 'rules'? And, either way, why do you do so?” and I even posted a reply.
Whenever I start to think up word games, this is a sign I'm distracted from the story I'm trying to tell.
Either because the story is boring - in which case I should stop - or because I'm approaching a very sensitive, difficult scene - in which case I should definitely not start playing games, but should focus on the storytelling!
Sometimes I change words while editing because they are funnier, because of etymological reasons or because they add an extra layer of meaning to the whole story. But that's what editing is for.
While writing, I'm not managing the words. The words choose me. I mean, I usually don't know which words I'm going to write down before they're there. Just like when I'm speaking.
And if I do know which words I'm going to use (e.g. when I'm playing with words), people often tell me that that passage doesn't sound right. The words are in charge, not me.”
In short, I've been promoting my novel, thinking about my career and organising my graduation party. It's all very interesting and important. But I've been doing anything but cramming for my defence appeal. Which is what I should have been doing.