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Thursday, 21 April 2011

There's this snail walking through the jungle.................

"Conceptual Conjunctivitus" finally cured, I plough on towards my ultimate goal - a nice vacation on the beach. All is going well. Words, as before spill from my virtual quill onto the electronic display, not quite Pepys, but definitely not Pepsi - there's some substance to my work, its not all just sugar and froth. One essay even approaches 'completion', although like The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia, that word is very relative. Indeed I have an advantage over that place in that while it admittedly get visited by millions of tourists very year, neither it, nor the parrots in its immediate environs will shortly be host to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Knowing I am going to be cleverer than a cathedral is inspiring, and I am buoyed enough to begin the process of the end.

Beginning the process of the end is a bit like initializing docking procedures in space. Long hours of preparation have been invoked towards the final product but the final product itself is still many steps away, even once you reach your destination.You have written the essay, you still have to proof-read it, remove (SEE WIKIPEDIA) from your list of references and find real ones, format it and make sure you have saved it somewhere on your hard drive you can find it. And like docking a spacecraft, a small error in any of these final steps can be fatal. You only really know you've been successful if nothing bad happens. You expect when you finish to be fireworks, whether or not purchased with booze. You expect to go out and get absolutely hammered in celebration, and have images of all your mates round you cheering "RED MAZ, RED MAZ, RED MAZ", then going home having wild sex with at least three people, and generally partying your m**th*rf*ck** ass off. [I have no idea why people put asterisks in when they swear in text - its not as if it changes in any way the pronunciation or meaning of the words used.] What actually happens is that you finish on a Tuesday afternoon about three thirty, and no-one's around. You've had no shower for two days, you have three days ugly stubble and have eaten pizza so much that the impossible happens - you want vegetables.You might well call your friends to go partying but no-one wants to party on Tuesday - it is, short of being Sunday about five o'clock, the worst possible time for having fun, so your brilliant plans to have a sombrero party, complete with tequila, ends up being much more restrained. Its very depressing, and ultimately not worth while - you're better off waiting till the weekend. Or if you're in space, waiting till you've touched down safely. So there's just you and 5000, 10000, 20000 words looking at you. It's a massive "So What?" moment. And that's just if all final docking procedures go well.

If things go less well, then it is, also like space docking, fatal. Often irretrievably so. It can be the moment when you realize just how far away from the end you truly are. This happened to me. I thought I had written the draft. I knew there was a 'bit' still to do, but decided to make myself feel better by starting to do the end bits. I would make it all 'look' like an essay and then playfully edit, perhaps for fun using Bill's programme "Find and Replace for Dummies", or maybe do a bit of light formatting, mess around with fonts to see what it looked like in Gothic.

The steps to making something look like a final version are

1. Convert it all to the same font in the same size (Wikipedia does funny things in word when you copy and paste)
2. Remove unintentional 'bolds'(see above)
3. Add correct line spacing.
4. Add header, footer and page numbers.
5. Remove extraneous 'notes to self' to do with checking facts, such as "MAKE SURE THAT HUMANISTS ACTUALLY DO ALL HAVE MURDER CONVICTIONS" or strategic notes like "INCLUDE REFERENCE TO Auerbach DESPITE IRRELEVANT - LECTURER LOVES THIS AUTHOR".

This all done, you go to "Save As", enter "Draft Essay Version Final V5 Final. Final" and wait as the screen squiggles. Hopefully a thing of beauty unfurls before your very eyes.

I dutifully did all this successfully, and things went well as far as the screen squiggle. A first glance at my new born draft and it became obvious that I, if not it, had been premature.

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