Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What About Now?

You say you want
To be happy

"If only..."
You begin,
If only jobs were abundant
Your house was nicer
The kids were cleaner
The cat didn't throw up so much
The dishes came out of the dishwasher clean
Your boss appreciated you
You could get that other job
That other role
That other guy
That other body
That other place
That other anything

And in the meantime?

You pout and pine
Grumbling over dirty dishes
And wasted dreams
Longing for times past
Or times to come
If only you can get a break
If only you can wake up in the morning
Ready to face the day
Knowing it's worth living for

Screw that

Stop ignoring what's around you
The sun might be dim
But it's there
The world is turning
You're alive
And fit enough to read this page

Today is just long enough
To get something done
To make a difference
To act
To be happy

Use it
And worry about tomorrow

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Progress... and Stagnation

I've revised more than two chapters of my novel today... so I've been working hard. It's been a tough novel since I first wrote it right after I earned my doctorate, oh, those many years ago, and I've revised in nearly 20 times over since then.

I am now at a break-through point, though. The novel finally feels like it's working. Now I'm at about the 24,000-word level on the revision, with about 60,000 more to go to complete it (of course, then I'll have another revision to go, at least). It's tough, sloggy sort of work, and I keep finding I have to go back through a chapter more than once to make sure I've changed ALL of the verbs (verb tense is my one weakness, so I have to ensure no stupid shifts occur). Slowly but surely, though, I am getting it done. I'll work on it some more this evening, after I've put the kids to bed.

Ah, progress...

On the other hand, just trying to put a novel progress on my blog page has proven to be irritating in the extreme. I follow the directions, think I've done it exactly, but all I earn is error message after error message. It should be simple. It is, according to so many of my blogger pals. But for some reason, success escapes me.

Drat! Stagnation.

And why is that so frustrating? I can tell you why. When I'm managing to tackle Mount Everest, why is it that I can't seem to step over a mole hill? That's like being able to master a recipe like duck l'orange but fudge up buttered toast. And since I hate wasting time, I'm even more pissed off.

I'm going back to the novel. At least I feel like it's within my grasp.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Looking Forward

I am still grading. I will likely be grading until December, so blogging will be scattered.

But I'm not unhappy.

In fact, at this very moment, my blood is pumping with excitement, and I love the world more than I have in several months. Because it is now less than one month until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I comes out, and you can bet I won't be grading on November 19th! I just spent the last ten minutes watching all 9 TV trailers on Youtube, and I feel like I could fly!

Hurray! Hurray for Harry Potter! I cannot wait!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Invisible Growing--For Jeff

The earth seems stagnant
Dead and waiting
Waiting for something
Not for me

The air oppresses
Hot with moisture
Heavy with pressure
Weighing down on me

Nothing will happen
I think to myself
I will sit in this soil
Fester and rot

But I feel little shoots
Of pain in the roots
Of me

Pushing out into
The deep, wet soil
Heading out where I cannot see

And something in my shoulders
Tells me the sun is growing closer
Am I a little taller?

Is that a branch? A leaf?
Don't tell me those are rosebuds
On my outstretched arms

I thought that I was hopeless
Caught in nothing
Stuck within the stationary

But just as I suspected
I was growing all along
And soon the buds will bloom
Turning into ripest fruit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Early Morning

Up again
Mind churning
Faster than
The world is turning

Child cries
Cuddle close
Where child lies
While night-time flows

Snoring sounds
Filter in
All around
A softened din
(of sleep)

But I'm awake
The world a weight--
Oh, for God's sake,
It's just to late
(to sleep again).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finding Time

I need some good ideas. Day after day I get all sorts of other work done... but not work on my novel. I manage to get all of my grading done on time, manage to keep the kids clean and off on their errands, manage to (mostly) keep the house acceptable (though it's mostly pit right now), but day after day I don't get to my novel.

I'd work on it now, I'm about to put the kids to bed, but I have more papers to grade.

I don't know what I can use, but give me all of the advice you've got, everything you or people you know do to manage time more efficiently.

I don't ask for advice often, but once in a while I figure out I don't know it all. Any ideas?

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Discouraging!

I spent the weekend reading student rough drafts--the first drafts of my current composition class. All were interesting, and some had real potential as writings, even outside of the course.

What I always find most interesting, though, aren't the drafts themselves, but the responses I get once I've returned them with feedback. So many of you are writers, and even if you are not highly sensitive to criticism yourself, you know at least a few writers who are. You can remind me, if you like, how hard it is to hear that something you've written isn't fantastic, and I'll agree.

When I send my own writing out into the world--whether to another writer or a beta reader--I naturally hope to hear how fantastic it is, that I'm going to be the next J.K. Rowling, that it was a life-changing work, etc. That's not what I hear, though, and I am prepared for that. I have pretty thick skin.

My students, however, do not. Their skin is thin, for many of them have not been writing long, and they may have never shared their writing with others before. First they get feedback from others in class, and then they get my response, covered in blue or purple comments. I don't use a red pen, but that doesn't mean the comments don't hurt.

I could be gentler, letting them get by with more, but that wouldn't serve my students in the long run. That would be akin to telling a friend/writer that his or her novel is ready to be published when I couldn't get through it. I don't tell my students what to write, but my #1 task is to help them write what they want to write in the best possible way. And that means I have to be honest.

My students do have it harder than most writers, though. Writers can choose to show their work to no one. Writers can get belligerent when feedback isn't what they want to hear. Writers can send whatever they want--in whatever stage of development--out to agents and editors, and they can curse these people when all they get in return is rejection slips.

My students have to show their work to me, even if they skip the day for peer response. They are forced to hear the criticism. Even worse, they have to use that criticism to revise and improve their papers. They can't ignore due dates or opt out of essay assignments. My classroom is a dictatorship, and I'm in charge. I'm the only editor, the only agent, the only chance they have.

Sounds pretty hopeless for them, doesn't it? It would be akin to the oppression of the setting for V for Vendetta, except for one thing. Just like real editors and agents in the real publishing world, I want my writers to do well. My feedback is intended to hone their writing, to help them accomplish their writing goals better.

Beta readers do the same, expressing when characters, settings, situations, or even individual lines of dialogue don't work, or don't fit with the rest of the work. In fact, I don't know a single person who has ever read my stuff who didn't intend to help me, even if that person didn't quite get what I was after. Yet I know so many writers who are still too afraid of failure to show their work to anyone.

Don't be afraid. Get the feedback. Welcome it. Yes, it might hurt--and you might feel bruised for quite a while--but your writing will be the better for it. The feedback you get will make all the bruises worth it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spiders -- For Goth

Is it that their wiggly legs
With hair or plastic looking
Might fall into your runny eggs
When you are busy cooking?

Or do you fear the brown recluse
Who hides inside your closet?
Or patchy webs in that old spruce
That make you want to lose it?

Instead of shivering in your shoes
Or jumping back in fear
Think, "Spiders would make great tattoos
Or fancy underwear."

"I think I'd like to dress like one
For Halloween, or Christmas
Their weaves shine like aluminum
And float between things, weightless

"Perhaps I'll climb into the lap
Of Daddy Longlegs, napping,
Or try a taste of venomed sap
Black Widow makes--most strapping!

"I want to see the world their way
The people passing by
Too big, or running all away,
While I sit in the sky.

"Such an adventure it would be
To be the spider on my knee
If she were I and I were she
A spider, weird and wild, and free."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Love to Blog... but Can't

The title says it all. Way too many papers to grade.

I'd love to slip in a poem or something, but it would only be about the papers, and thus the poem would automatically stink.

You'll just have to wait.

Sorry! (Believe me, I'm even more sorry than you are!)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life Choices

I've always wondered what I wanted to do when I grew up. Sure, I'm pretty old now, but I keep changing my mind. I've been teaching English for over 17 years now... and it's been great... but my husband brought up a question last night, and I'm truly unsure what to answer.

We are in the process of applying for all sorts of jobs for him--well, the same job in all sorts of places across the country--and while some of the colleges that may hire him would be open to my teaching as well, many will not be. Thus, he will suddenly be very, very official, work long hours, and have a fantastic paycheck to do what he truly loves doing, but I might find it pretty difficult to find any teaching work at all.

He'll ask once he gets the call, but last night he wondered aloud whether I even wanted to teach right now. If money were no object (and it would not be), would I want to teach, or not?

I don't know the answer. I love teaching (though I hate grading), but it also takes up a huge portion of my day. I intended to blog this morning, but because I was reading student rough drafts until mid-afternoon, I am only blogging now. And I still haven't written a word of my current novel revision.

I love the social aspect of teaching--and the students are motivated and happy and excited to be there, at least once they catch my enthusiasm--but the grading is really time consuming (since I teach English).

If I don't teach, I suddenly become the official spouse, using the time to write, clean house, paint, exercise, help my kids with homework, sew, etc. It isn't that I wouldn't be busy... nobody keeps busy like I do. I'd be able to volunteer in so many ways, and maybe, just maybe, I'd get some book published.

But I'd miss teaching. It might take a semester or two to realize it, but I'd long for the classroom... and I'd feel a bit lazy, planning out gourmet dinners for the family, spending time on luxuries I couldn't concentrate on before. Is this the way it's supposed to be? Should I just count myself lucky and take the chance?

What do all of you think? The post has only made me more confused. I know I'll talk to the hubby again, probably tonight, but I know most of you have good judgment. Let me know what you see...