Friday, November 6, 2009

Doing the Grunt Work

I spent most of the day on Tuesday working on my novel (I didn't have class--election day), but since then all I seem to have done is grade papers and prep for classes. Darn!

I could complain. After all, until this novel is revised, I refuse to work on the next one, and that means, day by day, I am missing out more and more on NaNoWriMo. But that type of outside push can never invigorate me in the way so many other things do. 

Including grading papers.

Okay, for those of you who haven't just given up on my blog entirely, give me a little time to explain. Think of it like a vacation--like Christmas. Once a year, it's festive, you get to listen to some great tunes, wrap all sorts of stuff up in pretty paper with curly bows, light candles, and eat tons of food. What's not to like?

Now imagine that same season all year round. It doesn't take long for that music to turn from lyrical to grating. The presents are just a nuisance, all the Christmas decorations would start feeling cluttered, and the food would go straight to your hips. Not so nice, is it?

That's what grading does for me. It presents a shift for me. It's still all about writing, for my grading consists of reading, responding to, and assessing all sorts of writings. I hone my editing skills, help students improve their writings' clarity and organization, and do so with some of the key writing needs in mind: audience, purpose, focus, description, climax, drama, etc.

Yet I don't get to release all I've collected, not until I take the time to sit down with my own writing and use all I've learned to revise or write for myself. And I am always amazed by how much I've grown in the few days it's taken me to get back to my novel. I needed to do that work to be able to get where I am now. And more work is coming on Monday... 

I wonder what I will gain from that batch of papers. Probably more than I expect.  

What grunt work do you do? What does it do for your writing?


  1. I don't know if it's grunt work but I love to take the young who honestly want to write and present that writing to an audience and push, prod, and cajole them into a place they didn't know existed. That place of pride in themselves and knowledge of knowing that they do in fact have a legitimate "something" to say.

    I know exactly what you mean Shakes by growing through working with others on their skills.

  2. I, unfortunately, do tons of grunt work that have little or no impact on my writing. I review documents on save and requirements, compile data and analyze it, sit through near endless mind-numbing meetings and telecons. I even write technical papers, but it has little or nothing to do with my fiction writing.

    I do wander around with my husband and children, shopping or whatever errands, and discuss items and options, plots and characters. I also troll through the world of knowledge and pick up tidbits I think might be useful. But that's all fun.

    I don't like to revise, but I do it because I want the end result. I HATE to market stuff, and haven't like that result yet.

    Um, what was the question? I just gave myself a headache.

  3. I think you do know what I mean, Walking Man. We are both fortunate that many of our activities feed into each other.

    Stephanie, I feel your headache, believe me, but I am so grateful not to spend my time in mind-numbing meetings (that's my husband's job). I intentionally grade in ways that allow me to emphasize content with my students' writing and de-emphasize grades. I love being around my children, and they inspire my writing, too, just as my other life experiences have done so. Perhaps your attention to detail in your job connect to the same in your writing.

    I understand about the marketing thing, but I am determined to get through that mind block this year (for myself). That is why I am revising now.

  4. “What grunt work do you do? What does it do for your writing?”
    My whole life is grunt work, apart from for the writing.
    It brings honesty and sense of self, out in my writing. And not to mention an escape from the grunt work…

    I sure hope my love to do’s don’t become have to do’s…
    Thx for posting