When I was a college sophomore, I already knew what I wanted my junior/senior research paper to be about. I was a double-major in both English and Communication, so I could choose either of those to focus on. They were offered on opposite years, with English being offered my freshman and junior years, and communication offered my sophomore or senior years.
I couldn't fathom researching an English topic. That just sounded boring to me. But the option of communication seemed wide open and offered more opportunities. I told some friends of mine that I was going to complete my communication research project as a senior, and that I was going to write about It's a Wonderful Life.
Add a year and a half of interceding college effort, drama, and hijinks, my senior year finally came around....and I forgot the plan. So I spent a week or two writing up notes about how I was going to compare print journalism reporting of the Civil War to coverage of the Gulf War. I was only half-feeling it and kind of dreading the project.
Part of the requirement was to present your proposal in front of the class. As I sat in the classroom that night waiting for the professor to arrive, we were sharing our topics in broad terms. I told about my news reporting idea, and one of my friends, Jay, spoke up: "I thought you were going to do this about It's a Wonderful Life."
I was shell-shocked. How could I have forgotten????!!!!! I uttered a short, vulgar phrase that shows surprise and the realization that I wasn't prepared to present on that. I thanked him profusely, turned around in my seat, grabbed a piece of paper and proceeded to ignore the first two or three presenters and I madly brainstormed and framed out my idea.
I present to you, that page:
I got up in front of the class that night, presented this as if I had planned it all along, and got some excited and encouraging feedback from my professor. I took that back to my dorm, started the film on my VCR (this was before DVD, let alone Blu-Ray), and wrote the full abstract, dated March 3, 1997:
This paper has gone through many versions, including the 46-page college paper that I turned in for a grade, a hastily-written book version that wasn't much more than a slightly expanded version of the college paper. I recently finished my 7th draft of a greatly-expanded, carefully-considered 250 (or so) page book. It has been declined by one publishing house with promising feedback about how it didn't quite fit their publishing vision, but was well-written, and a book proposal is currently with another publishing house under review and consideration.
And even though the book is complete, it's so tempting to go back and re-write it an eighth time. I have made a habit of it for the last 18 years. Old habits are hard to break, not to mention how much fun I have doing it!