Sunday, in a kind of all-day fury of writing, I finished a draft of the paper I'm to deliver later this week in Louisville. I've never been one to put these things off to the very last minute; I know folks who've turned out dazzling papers the night before a conference, or on the plane en route—but I need at least a few days' cushion, especially when there's a question of time. Right now it's at 9 pages, which is a bit long, given my drawly delivery, for a 20-minute paper. So I need a few intense hours of cutting to get it into shape; it'll be where it needs to be before Friday, I know.
Next month is the Fantasy/Sci Fi conference; that paper exists pretty much as a detailed abstract and several thousand words of scattered notes, which will magically coalesce into a 20-minute rhapsody in the week or two before the conference. (Or will be forced into such with a great expense of sweat and blood...) I'm not a great improviser of thought or expression. I know folks who, when asked an out-of-the-way question, or given an unexpected prompt, can come up with a wholly plausible and even interesting argument, right on the spot. That's not me. Everything I write, it seems, is the product of a long process of stewing over a given question or a given text. So even if I write the conference paper in a single concentrated 8-hour session, the resulting document is the boiling-down of many many hours of thought.
Alas, however, the recursive and scattered nature of my thinking is such that what gets boiled down is often no better than nugatory.