September 8, 2010

Writing Tips from Slavoj Zizek

You know the feeling. You have to write that thing. You need to get that outline done and write up that report so you can keep a bunch of people from thinking that you're lazy. You need to write that massive paper (or even that not so massive paper).

But for some reason you keep putting it you can go check your email or make sure that the kitchen is REALLY clean this time. Ya, you really don't need to spend that much time looking up the detailed histories of some obscure political struggle in the 17th century, you need to WRITE YOUR PAPER!

It happens. Fortunately, I have come across a new method of writing that I am going to steal from Slavoj Zizek. This past weekend, because I had to find something to do while I was supposed to be reading Foucault, I watched a film about Zizek, which is well worth watching. Especially if you are coming up short on your films about Lacanian psychoanalysis. It happens to the best of us. My favorite part of the film is when he talks about writing. Why, because he hates it:
I hate writing. I so intensely hate writing — I cannot tell you how much. The moment I am at the end of one project I have the idea that I didn’t really succeed in telling what I wanted to tell, that I need a new project — it’s an absolute nightmare. But my whole economy of writing is in fact based on an obsessional ritual to avoid the actual act of writing.
So what does Zizek do? He says that he tricks himself into writing by first just sitting down and writing notes, all the while telling himself that he's not really writing yet. You see? It's all about lying to yourself. It's all about deception. You're not WRITING, you're just jotting notes. And, according to Zizek, before you know it you have a whole bunch of material and you just need to edit, and eventually you're done. Just the kind of advice I like to hear. Everyone has their methods. I have always held people like John Steinbeck in high regard. I mean, the guy wrote whole journals while he was writing entire novels. Steinbeck was so organized and structured. I wish I was like that. But maybe I have been ruined by postmodernism. I have no idea what happened. But I get distracted all the time. I procrastinate. I end up doing research online about subjects that have nothing to do with the measly little four page paper that I am SUPPOSED to be working on.

The solution? Self-deception. Try it out. Just tell yourself you're going to sit down and write some "notes". Put some quick points down on paper. Jot a few things down. And all you gotta do is let the lies keep on rolling.


Dylan said...

I like that method. Thanks. I'll lie and deceive myself tomorrow (not meant as a joke) and let you know how it goes...

JM said...

Thanks for the tip Ryan. I love it.

C W Mills had something along these lines too, or almost. He wrote that the intellectual production consists mainly in the writing of notes (about lectures, ideas, plans of research etc.), and the categorizations, rearrangement and revisions thereof. At least this is what I understood.

Ryan Anderson said...

@ Dylan: tell me how it goes. Zizek is hilarious about this--but honestly I actually think this is a pretty good way of getting the ball rolling.

@ JM: Ya, for some reason the idea of writing NOTES sounds a lot more appealing to me than writing PAPERS and REPORTS. Weird actually, since it's really just semantic in some ways.