Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lynn Hunt on How Writing Leads to Thinking

In AHA Perspectives, Lynn Hunt, UCLA, launches a new series on “The Art of History.” Senior scholars will reflect on the art and craft of historical research and writing. Hunt begins:
Writing is stressful. Sitting in my computer chair my neck and shoulder muscles almost immediately tense up as I dig around in my brain for the best phrase or even any coherent string of words, whether I am writing an essay like this one, a book chapter, a letter of recommendation, or an email message to a friend. Writing is time-consuming. It’s a great way to pass the time on a long airplane flight because you lose track of the passage of time altogether. It’s even better, from that point of view exclusively, than watching an episode of Mad Men on your laptop. Writing means many different things to me but one thing it is not: writing is not the transcription of thoughts already consciously present in my mind. Writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently.
One of Hunt's rules is
not to look at notes....Reorganizing your notes is a form of house cleaning; it might make you feel good about yourself as a tidy person, but it will not produce a chapter—or even a page. Only writing can do that.
Continue reading here.
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