The process of producing my first proposal draft was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, not to be overly dramatic. Certainly, this particular project was one of the highest-pressure products I have worked on to-date, and the process of writing revealed how far I have to go before I really have a polished proposal.
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of writing my proposal draft was considering all of the elements of my historiography section (or the petals of my bedraggled daisy) and then attempting to organize them in a coherent order. This process revealed a number of things: first, there are MANY more books written on disasters and vulnerability than I initially realized (a double-edged sword), and I had difficulty determining which books would be most useful for my project or which books most informed/took part in the historical conversation I am attempting to join; second, that I do not necessarily have a good sense yet of the most logical way for my paper to proceed—I definitely struggled when attempting to determine my chapters and what each would include. Even a week after having to turn in the draft—having had time to reflect—I still am unsure about how to organize the different parts of my project in a way that would convince my audience that my argument is both credible and significant; finally, building upon my attempts to organize the various aspects of my project, I grew increasingly worried that my topic/argument has too many working parts. Having read the second years’ proposals and referring back to them several times throughout the writing process, I could not get a good sense of where the fine line was between “enough” working parts, or too many—I do not want to take on a project that is too broad, and I certainly don’t want to overcomplicate it to the point of confusing myself and my audience. I noticed this issue particularly when I tried to add in a comparison between the dam disaster and the shutdown of the company town—two completely unrelated events that had entirely different impacts on the town. While this comparison could be useful for the point I was trying to make, I do fear it is too much or too unrelated to add into my project.
I believe the most difficult aspect of writing this first draft was having to turn something in that I am not particularly proud of. I recognize that releasing a draft and getting feedback is a critical and helpful part of the proposal-writing process, however, I never like to release my work to the public unless I believe it is my best work (or at least very close to it).
This process has been exhausting—and it has only just begun—but I can definitely see the benefit of having to produce a first draft. I formed my own critiques of my work during the production process and I have had time to consider different approaches I would like to take or certain areas I would like to focus on, and I think these things, coupled with critique from a committee and peer reviewer, will result in a better formulated and more cohesive second draft.