Agony and Ecstasy

Did you think, reading the title, that this post was going to be about completing projects? Well, it is.

I completed a project today: I sent off my Folkroots column. I had been working on it on and off for a couple of weeks now. It takes me about two weeks to write a column like this, because there are all sorts of steps, like the going to the library step. And most of my time is taken up by the dissertation.

Today was the deadline, and I had about another 300 words to write. But I started by reading over the entire column from the beginning. It’s in three sections: a short introductory section, a section on the vampire in folklore, and a section on the literary vampire. I had finished the introduction and folklore section. There was just the literary section to finish. I had to say something more about “Carmilla,” and then something about Dracula.

So I started by reading it over from the beginning, making sure the first two sections sounded good. And they did. Then I wrote the paragraphs I needed in the second section. That took a couple of hours. If I were writing a story, three or four paragraphs would not take a couple of hours. But I was looking for quotations, checking my facts, even checking dates. And I was thinking, to what extend does folklore come into “Carmilla”? Isn’t it really in Dracula that we get the vampire of folklore, which is bound by rules? And doesn’t that come from the fact that Bram Stoker read Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest, about the beliefs and customs of Transylvania? So there I was, writing the last few paragraphs. I got to the point where I knew I needed just one more. And I thought, I’m almost done!

When you think this, as you’re completing a project, know: you’re not. The agony is coming.

It was time to make sure my endnotes were all in Chicago format, and that took at least an hour. And then I had to make my list of suggested readings. That wasn’t particularly difficult. But when I was done and I looked at the word count, I realized I was already close to my limit (even the limit over the limit that I’m allowed when I really, really need it: 4000 words is the limit, but I can go to 4500).

So I wrote that last paragraph, and I thought it was pretty good. But sure enough, when I checked the word count, I was over by at least 150 words. What to cut?

So I printed out the manuscript and read it over. I could see some things to cut in the column itself. And I could cut some of my suggested readings. So I cut, and then I checked the word count again. And realized that my current program calculates in the endnotes. I don’t need to do it myself. My word count was off by about 200 words.

Which meant that I hadn’t needed to cut anything after all. I went back and looked at whether there was anything I wanted to add back in. And I added the suggested readings back in. About 4100 words. Perfect.

I was also responsible for providing the images to accompany the column. I already had copies of most of the images I wanted. But one of them I simply could not get into the proper format, and it wasn’t that vivid or informative anyway. And I wanted a better image of Vlad the Impaler. And was there perhaps an image of Carmilla out there? Well, there was. Finally I had the five images I wanted, all out of copyright, all formatted correctly (as .jpgs).

I read over the column one more time, made sure I had caught all the typos I could possibly catch, and then sent it both as a Word document and a PDF. There are some tricky accents in there, and I want to make sure they appear correctly. The PDF will help if anything in the Word document is confusing. (Have I already explained the extent to which I despise Word? Well, I do.) Just before sending the column, I realized that I had saved the Word document as .docx, not .doc, and that had been a problem last time. So I saved it again, attached it again. And sent it.  And sent the images separately, in case there were file size problems.  Everything was sent.


For about five minutes, until I realized that the column would read better if I added a sentence just before the final paragraph.  So I’m going to look at it one more time tonight, to see if that sentence is actually necessary. (I think it will be. How annoying.)

And that’s where I was, three hours after I had thought I was almost done. With a throbbing headache and an aching back.

The agony and ecstasy of finishing a project. I must say, it does help to be able to complain about it.

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2 Responses to Agony and Ecstasy

  1. John Stevens says:

    Ah yes, the creative journey of extremes. It really is an extraordinary experience. Even the supposedly “easy” projects can set off emotions. Is it our investment in the process or the feeling of how the product will represent us?

  2. Or the commas? Because commas drive me to agony and ecstasy on a regular basis. 🙂

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