Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I Have Writer's Block: According to a Non-Student

I miss being an undergraduate college student. I have come to realize that I cannot really write productively outside of a classroom. I didn't realize this would be a problem until I started this ridiculous thesis writing project. I was such a good writer when I was in the undergrad program (sigh). I think it was because I had time to get all the cobwebs out while I was in class, and then once I got home I was more able to get the important stuff out. Today my friends and I were laughing about my undergraduate classroom style. I used to never listen in class and at the end I'd emerge looking like the star note-taker with a finished paper (usually for another class) in hand. There's nothing better for productivity than ignoring someone who's talking to you....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing Strain

It's been a while since I've posted anything to my blog, so now that the semester has begun, my posts will begin in a flood. I am so much more inclined toward writing and creativity as the semester goes because writing suddenly becomes my sole professional activity. I am writing, I am teaching writing, I am reading writing, I am revising writing, I am grading writing, I am defending writing, so I might as well also write for fun. Why bother doing anything else for fun when I am already using that part of my brain pretty actively?

My writing schedule is pretty strained at the moment. The thesis is taking up 90% of my writing time. It's going well. Well, it's going alright. Well, it's sort of going. I am not super optimistic, but I am pretty sure that it's going to be done. I am excited--in a way--to actually be at the point of writing a thesis since I am currently starting my 8th year as a college student. I have been geared toward this huge writing project for my entire life, it seems, and now that it's finally in process, it's ridiculous that I should be allowing a desperate writer's block to interfere (although sometimes that can't be helped).

But here I am poking my head out of my thesis writing mess just to say hi, and let everyone know that I am still alive in here!

My Claim to Fame

It's funny how I still operate in "semesters" while so many of my counterparts just operate in endless years counting down to their 2 weeks' vacation. (And that's another issue which I shall address at another time!) I am happy with my semesters, with my 17 weeks of life and then switch. I have never been a huge fan of "change" and yet my dislike for sameness is almost greater. I can't stand the frustration of a life devoid of uniqueness and adventure stretches before me like a straight road (the dreaded straight road so lamented by the books of my childhood! L.M. Montgomery taught me to appreciate the new adventures life calls for periodically.)

There is nothing more nerve-wracking and yet strangely exciting about walking into a new classroom to meet a new group of students. They are all unique, fresh minds that I have yet to impart knowledge to. I look at their faces--some of them bored and indifferent, some of them nervous with previous English experiences echoed in their expressions, everyone different--and I wonder whose lives I will touch, whose thoughts I will impress, whose minds will I change? The odds are that few will be changed by me, that some will even fail the class and never look back, or pass the class and never look back! But for the off chance that even one person might be interested in what I have to say and might walk away with a lesson that they will keep for ever...for that, it becomes worth it to me.

I remember parts of my college career, especially parts that are long gone and teachers that I only had once or twice. I remember one sentence, one piece of advice, one bit of encouragement, one day, out of how many hours spent doing work for that course and sitting in that classroom? But the key is that I DO remember. I remember when Patrick Reichard said, "Who are you quoting?" and I realized that quotation marks were a stylistic choice in speech and a rhetorical indiscretion in writing. I remember when John Flannigan said I should write something that matters to me, not something that shows off that I can write, when we were talking about the assigned essay prompts for my application to the University of Chicago (which I never submitted because of that conversation). I remember when Lizbeth Bryant said, "Unpack this statement," and I pondered over her meaning for days. Once I understood what it meant to "unpack" a statement, it's become a critical aspect of my own writing process. I am unpacking things all the time now, and I understand exactly why it's important. And there are many more...

So, even if someone remembers one thing, it is how my instruction may help me live on in the minds of my students. It will be my claim to fame for the future, even if I leave no other footprints behind.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Romantic Can Be the Real

I am happy for those who still romanticize the world, though they look down on my for my tendency to realize it ("realize" being here an operative, to make real, for such must be its derivation.) Believe me, I want to romanticize, but I have learned that nothing is romantic, nothing is as we imagine. Nothing quite lasts the way that the romantic whole of a story or film lasts: on the bookshelf, collecting dust, rotting from within, but always able to recall as a unit, a sacred bubble of whole, completed romance. But I have always had a secret desire that the romance of life could realize itself...and somehow you are making that come true for me! I love you, Nick Kamm :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Analyzing Songs

I was listening to Rachael Yamagata's "Quiet" today and noticed something that I have often noticed, definitely articulated on occasion, and felt to be true. I think the song proved it to me again today and now I want to share.

In the song, she says over and over, "I don't expect anything," but this repetition shows her expectation to be more of an issue than it sounds at a first listen. She isn't trying to convince him that she expects nothing, she is trying to convince herself.

I know because I've done this. "No it's okay, it's going to be okay. I'll be fine." We say these things with the hope that our saying it enough will turn our words into our truth.

Likewise, the repetition of a vow of sincerity sounds like insincerity trying desperately to be sincere.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August Layout Change

I am depressed by the autumnal colors of this post, but instead of thinking of it as fall-like, maybe I should think of it as sunset like. It could be warmth, not summer's end. And the books aren't depressing at all :)