The last few days I have been reviewing an old research proposal that I wrote more than two years ago. I was fortunate enough to receive a grant for the project, but because of various other obligations it was only last spring that I began to work on it in earnest. After some initial weeks of reading up on what’s happened in my field recently, I reached the point where I felt the need to revise the project abstract to reflect developments in my thinking since I wrote it, flesh out more fully the main points and organization of each chapter and so on.
As I have been working on this, I have become painfully aware of how long it has been since I was last in this position, i.e., about to embark on a fully funded, multiple-year project that will (hopefully) result in a book. Yes, writing articles can be difficult and challenging too, but trying to maintain coherence – “staying on message”, as a politician would put it – throughout a few hundred pages of text is a different matter altogether. Apparently it is also a skill you can fall out of practice with if you don’t do it regularly enough.
All I know is that I have been slogging my way through the various threads of research and the lines of argumentation that I want to include in the book, and let us just say that more work is needed. The problem is not really each strand of thought in itself, but rather the totality (in a painfully literal sense) of ambitions represented in the proposal as a whole. There are just too many of them. Or to quote The Matrix: “The problem is choice.” As it always is, isn’t it?
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While the chapter synopses need further, uh, refinement, at least I was able to revise the project abstract into a state that I may dare to share publicly. It is coming soon to a blog near you.