Tag Archives: 2004

Does any of my writing make sense today?

Well, I thought I was closer to the end of this journal. Thought yesterday was page 179, but it’s 171, I now see. OK, so I’ve got at least two days left, want to leave a couple pages at end for notes, Post-Its, etc.

What’s up? Not sure I can keep up the Creative Writing routine. I don’t have any big plans. That’s OK, though. I’ll make it one way or another, a day at a time. Maybe even include a grammar lesson, although I told kids no tests in here. Doesn’t mean we can’t do lessons on it. I shouldn’t need tests just to enforce stuff, as motivation or whatever. Motivation should be itself, the learning or whatever.

Does any of my writing make sense today? I’m not sure it does. It seems it would be a little awkward—as even the use of “would” in this last sentence. …

This pen’s almost out of ink. I’m having to press harder. Funny kids—on 2nd day of Morning Pages, Micky said, “another two pages?” Yes, that’s why I said several times that it was 2 pages/day, all semester, so 180 pages/semester. That’s why I said that. Just shows they don’t listen when I talk, I guess. … Yes, I would rather get them more involved in everything—more active, less me talking—and yet, this is partly what it is, this reading and talking and writing—this is English class! Writing like this should be a live-event. I guess it would be if you give public performance. I guess we could do that, give public poetry reading and stuff.

[From journal of Wed., 25 Aug. 2004, Journal 37, page 173-5]

How do you really know by the end of the process which ideas are your own?

(Trying to keep a looser grip on the pen—mindful, and may also help my wrist (after yesterday’s garbage incident))

Did lots of work yesterday—not more than other days perhaps but it’s finally coming together for me what it is I need to do for this paper. When I tried to write before, I couldn’t keep straight all the different sources I have. So I’m doing the annotated bibliography first and putting in the annotations what it is I want to take from each article.

Since there’s no Works Consulted page in APA style (as there is in MLA), and I have to cite each source someplace, I might as well do this. I will end up writing this paper more like I used to write my journalism articles—funny, because I asked C___ about this: do you first put down your quotes and sources, and work them up into a coherent whole, or do you just sit down and write and put in sources later or as you go? He said he does the as-you-go method—he has all his 400 sources (or whatever huge number he said) next to him and he grabs for one to search for the idea he wants to use. Thing is, though, is that seems a bit dangerous, because after reading so many sources, how do you remember which ideas are your own, which are somebody else’s, and if somebody else’s, whose? One person’s? Others’?

Since you have to cite everything, all ideas not your own, how do you really know by the end of the process which ideas are your own? I mean, this is an iterative, generative process—back and forth, you get some ideas from books and then “process” them yourself—are they fully new or not? I notice that even as I’m writing these annotations how I’m writing out not just the ideas that are explicitly there in the work, but the ideas I had while reading the work, which is different but still seems to need a citation. And in that process I’m adding something, and I’m thinking how this idea will fit into the paper. Without explicitly thinking of structure, my brain is kinda working on it subconsciously, tumbling these ideas over in my mind like a rock tumbler; eventually you get something nice and shiny coming out.

And writing this way is sort of a reductive process—when I’m writing to fit a formula, it’s a reductive process, taking away stuff that doesn’t fit, seeing what’s left, etc. Just writing enough to meet the expectations—as opposed to when I write on my own, which is an open-ended, expansive process. My ideas lead me up and away. I’m not in control of even where we’re going with this idea. It’s beautiful!

I guess once again I’m describing the composing (expansive) vs. editing (reductive) duality—and yet, this project for class is frustrating in part because it doesn’t have a composing part, really. Maybe that’s what gets me down about it . The whole thing feels so constructed—and when I read these research articles, that’s probably main reason why they’re so terribly written and thus so hard to read. People are writing to some formula, some model of dull writing—well, not purposely dull, but purposely anonymous, plain, passive voice: “When there were disagreements among raters, discussions were held” (not exact quote from the piece I read yesterday, but close). It’s a sentence with no meaning! It’s not an absurd sentence, or even an abstract sentence—it just tells you nothing! So what if discussions were held—what were the discussions about? How were disagreements resolved?

But I’m thinking that these people write so poorly (maybe some just aren’t good writers) partly because of the demands of the discipline, and of the journals—lifeless, disembodied prose—”things were done.”—what? No, you did things, she did things, etc.

[From journal of Tues., 6 July 2004, Journal 36, page 203-4]

My picture of me with long hair

[A school supervisor of mine said] how my picture of me with long hair was one of (or the) most surprising teacher pic—he said he had a brother with long hair, so maybe he’s not too shocked, though he said, “I don’t like the culture” of skateboarding.

Picture of me from a Daily Illini column, 1995.

But this relates to [a teacher colleague] in parking lot talking to me after school, how “that’s the guy who came to talk to my journalism class” in late ’95 or early ’96, I think. And that reminded me of how I was a different person there, the fleeting nature of self—I thought of interviewing others to see what I was like externally then. I didn’t put on a very good presentation, that’s for sure, not like I could now.

I said to [my colleague], yeah, maybe they should’ve looked into my past more before hiring me!

Idea from 11/18 evening:

—having fiction ideas in daily life, but they usually seem fake right away (that danged judgmental part of my mind), but maybe these ideas, when in composing mind, wouldn’t seem so bad.

—what M said about how your subconscious can’t deal with, can’t defuse, teasing/sarcasm/irony. What I said about how TV’s irony and cleverness will never come from honest, open composing

—anything done in time (on deadline) and repeatedly doesn’t need to be done well. And all performances in real time don’t need to be that great, either. Heroes’ quests aren’t conquered every day, you know. Humans can’t handle that.

[From journal of Fri., 19 Nov. 2004, Journal 39, page 224-5]

Pretty much an accident that your perceptions of the place matched the author’s description

Last day before Thanksgiving. A break will be good. It’s already 5;25, I for some reason read the Rock. Coll. magazine that came instead of starting to write but hey, no big deal. Now , after poopin’, it’s 5:45. Oh, well, here we go.

This story about a blue-collar guy who lived thriftily and donated $2.3 million to University of Great Falls. But what caught my eye was his avoidance of “putting on a show”—as opposed to all the grabs for attention out there now, you know, the cultural importance of attention. And I wondered if what he is indicating here is that he’s humble, … that he’s doing the donation entirely for his own personal reasons, not for publicity or external reasons at all.

Here’s the other article that caught my attention yesterday, both from Tues. [Chicago] Tribune. This guy, Meltzer, writes comic books, novels, and a TV show,” Jack & Bobby.” At first, the quote about if he writes about it, he’s been there—well, duh. I mean, yes, if you’re writing about a place that other people might also visit (that is, if you’re not just writing about a made-up or appropriated-from-real-life place), then, yes, you need to be there.

But the other side to that quote could be the editor is saying author really “evokes” the places he writes about. But all that means is that, after reading this, you go there and see for yourself, you can see what he’s writing about. But you’ve already read this description, and so that’s in your mind when you go there yourself, you know? You can’t have the experience fresh because you’ve already read it. And let’s say that you read about a place you’ve already been to. Well, then, it’s just pretty much an accident that your perceptions of the place matched the author’s description.

See, I think I wrote about this recently, how media perceptions are often so different– that is, the perception of a place I get from seeing the media representation is not the experience I have when I go to a place. I’m reminded of my Wash. D.C. trip in ’97 [as a reporter for an agriculture newspaper, with my trip paid for by a corn-growers group] and how White House was smaller than I thought it’d be, less impressive somehow. And how there’s that dissonance between your idea built from media and your perception of it right here.

It might have been funny if, instead of just an article about the topics, if I’d actually written about the process of lobbying. After all, that was sorta more unique than most media accounts—and, sh!t, that would’ve been much better than the dull-ass articles I did write. But within recent months I found and reread some writing I’d done that was about the press conference, how horrible it was and everything—pretty funny now. That would’ve been a better story. It was more-interesting material than yet another ethanol story, but there you go. I can’t imagine Warren actually publishing it—though I’d have to tone it down. Maybe he would’ve actually let me do a sidebar on the lobbying process. Oh, well.

[From journal of Weds., 24 Nov. 2004, Journal 40, page 34-8]