These are just random things I come across as I write. Perhaps they should be Twittered, but I need a post, and some are longer than 140 or whatever characters.
First, how do you consistently refer to a person who went by four different names over 80 years when you are writing about the things that she did during those 80 years? Fortunately, for a good chunk of that time she did have the same last name, so that allows me to default to that; but what about this crucial period of time that comprises the bulk of the article. She changes last names three times, and first names once, all in the space of four years. That's five different names to negotiate! Ack!
Second, I tangle myself up with my own varying use of verb tenses. I find that when I am talking through a narrative or problem, I speak in present tense, as if I'm walking through the events and processes with my subjects. Having started out my college education as an English major, I have a tendency to slip into present tense when writing about written documents, just as you write in present tense about characters and events in novel. Writing as a historian, I have to keep it all in past tense. This means that my drafts, even the good ones, have occasional slips into present tense. I don't notice because it all came out of my head, and if my head is reading it, then my head doesn't think there is a problem. The writer and the proofreader in my head are working by the mess of rules. This is where outside eyes are an enormous help!
Third, really, I need to unplug the internet connection. When I wrote my first book, I had to go into a room that did not have a connection. The internet calls me, and not just to goof off (like writing a blog post when I should be writing an article). I can go look something up, or let a tiny question take up too much time, or try to track down something that really will not alter what I'm saying but would be nice to have as a citation or an elaboration in a footnote, or get distracted by the teaching stuff. Books can sometimes do that, too. It is all Drift, and it can all wait until later, after the writing.
Fourth, I've noticed a tendency among people who do not write to assume that sitting down to write is not terribly different than sitting down to read. The only difference between the two is that you use your hands more when you write. Even if the people in question hate to write anything, and find writing tedious, they look at you, the writer, and assume that you don't have similar difficulties in writing. "Oh, it's easy for you," they say. Maybe, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't require effort and is sometimes very frustrating. The writer just finds it more satisfying than the non-writer.
Of course, perhaps this is just me because I catch myself making the same assumptions about other writers. "Oh novelists," I catch myself thinking, "they just make it up, so it's so much easier for them." Yeah. And then I try to write a novel and remember that the reason that I went into history was because the stories were already there. I also catch myself imagining some famous historian, some giant in the field, someone who regularly produced books and articles hailed as "brilliant," -- I catch myself imagining them sitting down to their computer to have the next great, paradigm-shifting book just pour out of them in one smooth and polished draft, footnotes and all. (Understand that this "famous historian" could be pretty much anyone, even a not-so-famous but published one.)
So, I'm finding that I am taking heart in the image of [name a writer you admire here] sitting at their desk, staring out the window, and thinking, "shit. I've got nothin' today," then spending the next six hours rewriting the same damn paragraph that just won't sort itself out.