Palimpsest of dreams
Editing a paper until late, downing cup after cup of coffee, all combined to the effect of strangely lucid dreams, in one of which I had been adopted by a kindly woman professor who was talking to me about dreams and writing. I explained to her that I've been having a series of vivid dreams in which I'd been chased by a witch with a terrible political agenda.
The kindly woman professor took me to a special study in her bookstore, where she commanded me to try writing about my dreams and my own program of aesthetic politics. When I did so, she sat down to edit: and progressed by underlining words, rather than by crossing them out.
I asked her to explain the meaning of her system. In real life (and I explained this in the dream) I saw a decline in my prose as I went into my second PhD program, where I was scared of not grasping the new subject-matter of an area I had no experience with before. The prose would become tied in knots as I tried to load concept after concept into a sentence, desperately hoping to have sufficiently noted everything I was learning, with no regard for readability. The professor in my dream nodded as if she understood. She explained that she had a different system, a system useful for those trying to tease whole ideas out of paragraphs: that by underlining the key words in my short essay, and asking me about them the way a psychologist examines a patient, she could force me to apply the skills of close reading to myself. If I would take the time to consider all the things I wanted to say, to find new words and string the key stages together, the prose would nest about the paragraphs without tangles.