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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Writing past the writer's block

I spent much longer nailed to the computer today than I intended, but it turned out to be a very good thing. A good friend emailed earlier with some suggestions for how to get myself out of the knowledge gap that was keeping me stuck, and in answering her, I shook a few things loose. I spent the day reworking chapters I'd already "finished" (knowing that "finished" just means "I don't have to work on those for now") and revisiting the dreadful chapter that had run me full tilt into writer's block. In the process, I kept doing "quick and dirty" research--most of it relatively ineffectual--but I'd get just enough information to make a few sensible adjustments, work out a few inconsistencies.

And revisiting that problematic chapter actually turned out to be pretty productive. I could keep part of it, but a lot I just ditched--didn't even save to a "cut file" as I usually do--and wrote over. I am now officially unblocked.

That does not, however, mean that I will be forging ahead with great gusto in the writing. I hope to keep working at least sporadically--perhaps interspersed with whatever I can do to work on class prep. I can work on the online Nature in Lit without knowing the schedule, for instance. (More on that in a minute.) And eventually, the calendar for 2017-18 will have to be disseminated, which will open the door for me to get serious about syllabi for my fall classes.

As for the online class, Paul is going to be teaching something online in the fall, so he's been picking my brain, and William's (William teaches online pretty regularly now)--and I overheard William say to Paul that he should forget about the idea of having two separate deadlines in a week, the way we do for our FTF classes. We're used to read X for Monday and Y for Wednesday, X homework for Monday, Y for Wednesday--but William says that doesn't work for online courses, that one must instead plan for the week. I don't remember what I've done, but I think I was already heading in that direction: two readings, yes, but only one weekly deadline for each portion of the written work the students need to do. But it would be good to double-check on that.

I also should set up a meeting with my distance ed mentor to talk to him about online grading. It would be a good idea to try that out at least a little with my 101s, so I can get the hang of it before teaching fully online--but I'm not sure I want to add that wrinkle to my own process just yet. Fortunately, I don't have to make up my mind right now, and even more fortunately, I don't have to be in any particular rush to meet with the distance ed guy: I can contact him when I know I have to be on campus anyway, like later in June when I'll start with fall adjunct scheduling (assuming we get the finalized lists before I leave town).

Oh, and I got another email from the Tough Cookie, asking about summer classes. Summer one started today. I told her that, but there are also classes in summer two. She again had to whine about how I delivered really bad news. I reminded her that I'd suggested several times that she withdraw, and she opted not to. I'm really getting sick of students acting as if they had no idea they were doing badly when 1. they should have been tracking their own grades and 2. in many cases, I told them their grades were in jeopardy. But no: it's my fault that they felt blindsided. Oh argh.

There's more I could natter about right now, but I can feel my brain turning into pancake batter, so I'll leave any further musings for another post. I leave you all with the content of a message that I got from a good friend who is pursuing some work on metaphor (I was supposed to join him, but unless he gives me specific assignments and deadlines, it isn't going to happen: I don't think like that unless I have to). He sent me the following:
"All expressions (types), it should be added, have characters.
However, the characters of eternal expressions are “constant, ”
that is, they determine the same referential value (content) in all contexts;
only those of demonstratives & indexicals =
non-constant–yielding different referential values (contents) in different contexts."

This is why I am not a scholar, specifically of anything having to do with theory.  All I could think was, "Aren't we supposed to write in such a way that people can understand what the fuck we're talking about??" Shades of my dissertation all over again, reading Butler, Lacan, Saussure, Barthes ... and being utterly bewildered.

Instead, I'm reading a Mary Renault novel. Much better. A person can eat popcorn to a book like that.

1 comment:

  1. Me, Henry James. Amber, German flicks and House of Cards on Netflix. No theory. Chacun(e) sa/son gout. B