Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Writer's Struggle

Why on earth would anyone assign a paper of 20-25 pages? As a teacher, such an assignment condemns you to have to read all those pages. And it seems to encourage, almost to require, excessive wordiness and obfuscation, a.k.a. bullshit.

Since it's a seminar paper, a single paper at the end of a full course, and since I will never see teacher feedback on it or revise it, perhaps I should view this in the process-over-product fashion:

The 20-page paper is not the point so much as the mental energy expended on synthesizing ideas and the mediation of those ideas, through language, into learning. That's what it will be for me; for the teacher it will demonstrate that I have read and engaged with the material.

I wrote my heart out all day yesterday and only have five pages to show for it. My beautiful bibliography doesn't count as a page, sadly.

I'm still making my argument and haven't even begun the arduous task of finding literary evidence to support the parts of the claims that are about the literature. I do have an outline, of sorts, to guide me through. And thank goodness, unlike in journalism, there's a conclusion to write at the end -- more synthesizing but no new research. So it's just negotiating those 14 pages in the middle that will be my challenge today and tomorrow. I've promised myself I will complete at least six more pages today.

Meanwhile, my next-door-neighbor's dog is kenneled right outside my bedroom window, where he only puts her in the early mornings, and where she barks in her deep, full-throated way; it sounds like a large dog barking in my room. This morning at 7:30 a.m., I, who am essentially a pacifist, could very easily have opened my window and put a bullet in my neighbor's dog.

And as usual in glorious 2008, there is too much personal drama to concentrate well. As usual, it will be a freakin' miracle if I get this done. Now to finish my coffee and get to work.


Ernie Branscomb said...

Use lots of obsafactions and obstruficate a lot.

Good luck! I know that you have all the skill you need.

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya K and I hear you loud and clear! Good luck, which you won't need, because I just know you can do it! Have you got my X-Mas card yet? This morning it started snowing again. Write now it's just stuck to the trees, everything else melted... but I took some nice pics of it (just for you!). I will post them soon. Other than that I distracted myself a lot today and basically... did NOTHING so far. Good, huh? I'm so glad that I don't have to meet any deadlines anymore *relieved*, that's why I wish you double luck on the 25 pages! Our vacation papers came from Austria and I found out I don't have a sort of skin cancer due to Copaxone, which is very good. A biopsy needs to be done in January anyway. That's my news. And you go on writing now and quit being online so much, you hear me? ;-P Hugs, R.

Anonymous said...

OOps... "Right now" it should've said :( Mea culpa. R.

Kristen said...

Dear Indie,

. . . As the religious like to say, "God Speed," my friend . . . . May ideas burst into your mind already supported by excerpts, and may drama *at least* be willing to take a back-seat for now! "God Speed"

In Joy,

Indie said...

Thanks All You Dear Ones,
Having worked 9 to 5 like with only one break to make lunch, I am ready to stop for the night. I am on page 14!

At this point the ideas and evidence are flowing, exactly as you say, Kristen. And not too much obfuscation going on, Ernie!

I am so ready to be done. It's so strange how we (students) live and breathe these papers, then turn them in and it's over. Just like that.

R, no I haven't gotten the card yet but I will now anticipate it. I love your pretty cards and your lovely German handwriting!

I am very relieved about your good medical news!!! Now slather on that sunscreen, girl, especially in the snow!

I'm dying to see the snow pics. I just heard a prediction of storms tomorrow and maybe even snow. Not for me though since I am on the coast. It's been gorgeous and sunny, while I've been shut in with my computer

Kym said...

Hurrah for page 14. I remember going crazy over those things. The worst was when you were sure of your literature quote to back up an idea and then...Well, it didn't quite fit. Tears!!!!

But I forsee full pages in the near future and a quiet heart.