Proposing Stuff: An Essential Part of the Process

In the past three months, I have written one non-fiction book proposal, proposed two papers at conferences, and written a Call for Papers for a soon-to-be-announced conference that I’m running next fall.

This is, of course, one of the toughest dilemmas in academic and/or creative work: you spend a decent amount of time explaining stuff you’re going to do before you actually get to do it. I feel pretty elated when I finish a good 250-word abstract or a chapter summary of a chapter I plan to write, but it’s easy to feel like it’s not the same as the “real” work.

Truthfully, in terms of the actual sentence-by-sentence level crafting–editing out repetition and wordiness, finding the one word that does the work of seven, making a concept really clear–the work is as difficult and challenging as actually writing the thing itself. As a professional writing teacher, I’m always trying to help students develop those skills in their own grant writing, cover letters and resumes, and memos. Doing a lot of it myself keeps me honest.

And this is part of the process. I know the proposal for my first book was really where I figured out what it was “about” and how the pieces fit together, even for the parts that were already written. This is similar. And, if my papers are accepted, they’ll be that much closer to finished material. Such is the game.

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