I'm wondering whether my Lunatics project may divide itself into several separate projects, but I'm still interested in a nonfiction flash series on women who were incarcerated in mental asylums. I've written about several nineteenth-century lunatics already, after research on the Willard Suitcases project, Lucy Ann Lobdell, Lorina Bulwell, Nellie Bly's undercover journalism on Blackwell's. Lately I've been reading a fascinating book on Charcot and hysteria. This advice in a recent interview by the essayist Elisa Gabbert seems useful. I've never written 5,000 words in a day, but a flash, yes.
"I just turned in a manuscript, another collection of essays, and the way I wrote that was very specific: For between one and three months, depending on my time constraints, I’d surround myself with, or submerse myself in, material on a topic—for example nuclear disasters, or 'hysteria,' or memory—and read and watch films and think and take tons of notes. Then after a while the essay would start to take shape in my mind. I’d outline a structure, and then block off time to write it. As this process got systematized, I became more efficient; for the last essay I finished, I wrote most of it, about 5,000 words, in a single day. It was pretty much my ideal writing day: I got up relatively early on a Saturday morning and wrote until dark. Then I poured a drink and read over what I’d written. Of course I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t give myself plenty of processing time."
In fact that's how I wrote my flash sequence on Freud's Dora a few years back, which followed several days of immersion in Freud's case study and research about it and French feminist critiques. I'd love to maintain that balance between research and lyric riff in these new flash, which sometimes feel too prosy and academic to me.
The interview got me interested in reading Elisa Gabbert, and I already love her essay "The Point of Tangency: On Digression."