Ill-defined, or just ill?

[Bazerman (1990)] suggested not only that writing is typically an ill-defined problem, but also that it may well be an infinite variety of ill-defined problems. An expert in one domain of writing–novelist, poet, journalist, scientist–is not necessarily even competent in another domain. Each text form requires new ways of inventing and communicating ideas.
–RT Kellogg, Psychology of Writing, p15

I have frittered away at least 15 minutes on an interwebs search for “foam sofa bolster.” Because I am in our middle room, the one with one small window, sitting in a Windsor-backed chair scaled for a preschooler while looking sidelong at a twin bed. The twin bed is theoretically a daybed–and thus a sofa–but I realized yesterday that one of the things that makes a sofa comfy to me is that I can bend my knees when I sit there. Yesterday I was writing from my own bed, back braced against the wall with pillows and legs stuck straight out. I am inflexible; my legs don’t really stick straight out, and attempts to make them do so result in protests from hip-joints to ankles. Distracting, to say the least. The unadorned “daybed” is therefore a non-starter without a “foam sofa bolster.”

Evidently I am acquiring some routines. And habits of place. Yesterday I found my non-routine day workable; I knew when I was expected various places, and did an adequate job of fitting my must-dos around them. Today, not so much. My lone appointment was left completely up in the air, to be settled in a day-of three-way texting conversation. Which, as it often does with my cohort, required perhaps three elapsed hours to achieve consensus. And then had to be redone two hours later when My Sweetie reminded me that I’d left something out of my time calculations.

Ill-defined, indeed.

Perhaps I’d be more cheerful if I simply forged ahead after, say, 15 minutes of non-response. I could act as if I was one of those stereotypical reclusive writers. I get so impressively irritated when I’m interrupted, though, and I have such difficulty ignoring interruptions. (At least that’s a common ailment in my field.) Perhaps I’d be more cheerful if I simply forged ahead AND set my phone to “do not disturb,” blocking all calls and texts. Except the calls and texts from folk on my speed-dial come through anyway. Perhaps I’d forge ahead, remove folk from my speed-dial, and set “do not disturb!” Now I feel like I’ve wandered into the Spanish Inquisition. Put me in the comfy chair!!

Oh wait.

Y’know, it’s annoying to my principled self that my way of working is currently as fragile as it is. In the spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving appropriate to the weekend, I will here give thanks that my current way of working is less fragile than it has been, but what that shows is just how far there is to go. I now have a routine, but it’s so brittle that an extra person or two’s undefined expectations knocks it off the rails. Not to mention messing with my finicky habits of place… though I am grateful that I at least have now told myself out loud what those are. So much more pleasant than my prior vague…shall I say, ill-defined?…feelings of antsiness.

An open curtain, a closed door, a chair that lets me bend my knees, a nearby place to rest my screen while my keyboard sits at 90 degrees to my torso…it’s a start, and it can make do with grey-filtered light just above my eye level. So maybe I’m not as ill-defined as I feel.


ps: I finally finished The Psychology of Writing on Tuesday! I threw the quote in just because I could.

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