Fig.1. My ever changing desk
Some weeks into preparing a 4000 word essay I finally, painfully, through copious notes, and assemblages of arguments to support my chosen thesis hit 'Word Count' and to my amazement find this fourth draft far from massively overfilling the cup comes in at 4036 words. It is with an uncharacteristic confession that I should know by now that this kind of considered effort will deliver, while writing as if in a blog will never do. A few marks short of a distinction for my last effort what I need now to do is prioritise the multitude of references that I've attached - some 67 (from a core set of seven or so books and eBooks). Actually I am still missing a dozen references at least. Whilst some of the ideas are mine, most are not, when it comes to the First World War, thousands have been there already (some 23,000 publications on the topic).
There is method to this. All other approaches having failed the above is to be the approach I take for my very last effort to constructing, rather than writing, a novel. It has its moments in the First World War, though it covers a period that a lecturer at the weekend expressed in the phrase, as 'From Super Power to the three day week'. He wanted to know how Britain had gone from Empire to near collapse over 75 years; this just so happens to be the period my main character lives through.
Over the last four years I migrated from pen and paper, to purist working on and from digital platforms only. Today my approach is blended - anything and everything that works. This means hard back reference books as well as eBooks, a pad of paper and an ink pen and the interface an iPad, and laptop or desktop - documents in Google Docs so quite frankly anything that gets me online will work. Often I take photos of a book rather than take notes. With eBooks I highlight, add notes - then assemble choice points onto Rolledex cards. What counts, I have learnt, is the time and quality of engagement with the subject matter. At some stage the fog does clear and it makes sense well enough for you to be able to talk about it willingly and in an informed way if you so choose - recommended, where and if you can find some many willing and able to listen and respond.
The result is my understanding of 'Why Britain went to war in 1914'. It is not the conclusion I would have come to a few weeks ago. It has relevance today as 100 years ago too - it comes down to a handful of political leaders: who they are, what they desire and represent, how they behave and to whom (if anyone) and how, they are accountable.
Somewhere across these posts there are other images of 'my working space' and my 'Personal Learning Environment'. This space is temporary: its the kitchen/dining table for a start. When my teenage daughter gets in from college she takes over with art materials and a sewing machine and I retire to a corner of the bedroom with an iPad.