The Attack of the Papers

I think it's going to eat me.

I think it’s going to eat me.

Do I look calm in this photo? Maybe I do, because I’m bad at taking pictures, and I don’t know what to do with my face, but in reality, this is cause for a little bit of freaking out.

The short stack of handwritten papers that you see on the right is all of the papers that, so far, I have read, typed, and categorized. I’ve come up with a process where I label individual sheets of paper with a number and label folders with a letter. Then I’m able to save them on my computer in the order that I read them, although they have yet to be sorted according to their order in the actual plot of the story. So far, I have over 300 full, single-spaced pages saved on my laptop. I was slightly in denial about how much this actually is before I realized that it’s basically the length of a full-sized novel already.
As you can probably guess, the stack that you see on the left is all of the pages that I haven’t read or typed yet. And good God, it’s huge.

I’m going to be honest here: at this point in the summer, I should be over a third of the way through these papers, and clearly that isn’t the case. So I’ve started looking at ways to cut back on the amount that I actually try to type. There’s a bit of a catch 22 in the fact that typing pages that are already written is almost ridiculously easy, but so much so that it’s hard to motivate myself to actually do it. I’ve told myself that even if I do manage to type every one of these sheets into my computer, it would only make my life harder, because I’ll have to wade through hundreds of files in the later stages of the process.

An additional consideration is the fact that my grandfather was always a little bit of a peculiar person, as they say, meaning that he tended to be a tad more uptight, methodical, and generally unusual than your average guy. When he developed brain cancer, a lot of these weird sorts of behaviors were intensified. This made him even more likely to, for example, write the same passage twenty or thirty times over, only changing a few words or only changing the style of handwriting. This makes it really difficult for me to figure out which drafts are the best or most important.

But as I’ve gotten more used to the process, I think it’s starting to become easier to come up with strategies for how to move through the material more effectively. My main strategy has been to tackle the longer and later drafts first. That way, if I come across earlier versions of those passages that aren’t as good, I can skip over them. It’s not completely foolproof, because originally, I convinced myself that I needed to go chronologically through the drafts in order to really understand my grandfather’s process. Unfortunately, even having the whole summer doesn’t give me enough time to do that, so I’ve had to compromise by reading the later drafts first.

To be honest, I’ve spent a little too much time with these papers, which I’m especially realizing now because of the fact that I’m pretty sure I could continue this conversation for several more pages. But that wouldn’t be enjoyable for anyone. So I believe it’s come time for me to go put all those folders back in their boxes–for now, I’ll say goodbye! Thanks for reading.

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