“The brain has corridors”
She moved from street to street, from building to building, from floor to floor. She had done this for more years than she cared to count. In fact, she had grown tired of counting: one year became five became fifteen and twenty as fast as fists could unfold. The passage of time exhausted her, felt like running in place, eyes blinking, clouds covering the sun.
Creating a collaborative website with students has been really fun. Students now have their own homepages from which they link their assignments. Their first papers/first drafts have been posted, and I have visited each one, making comments as I go. Students seem intrigued by this system.
I also did the first assignment along with my students, posting my first draft for them to see. Many commented that my draft inspired them or helped them to write their own.
Rita is still in intensive care, but there are indications that she is on the upswing. Thank you, readers, for thinking of her. I miss her very much.
My students and I are experimenting with building a collaborative class website through pbwiki. It’s fun. I created a main page that introduces the course theme: imagination. That page also includes links to assignments and to students. Branching out from that main page, students are building their own “homes” from which they can link their individual work. On each page, there is a comment function, so that students and I can go in and converse.
I just finished (I say that loosely) a new draft of my novel.
I all but threw out the last draft and started over. The protagonist is the same, and her best friend—a sort of sidekick—remains. Other than that, the story morphed ahead several decades, and its focus became much smaller.
This writing process confounds me, yet I am in love with it. I spend so much time alone, mulling over words and phrases, wondering, “How would she really respond in this situation?”
In the living room
In a chair,
the upholstered kind,
old-fashioned with winged arms—
a chair made for conversation
A floor lamp illuminates her.
And next to the chair, a red walker
complete with wheels
waits to take her other places.
Okay—someone tell me—why am I so compelled to write?
These last few days, trying to solve the problem of my novel, have forced some hard work out of me. I might even say I’ve come face to face with a few demons. I might even say, I am taking a hard look at myself through my characters. Oh, to be human.
I am taking a week-long writing retreat in Provincetown—the goal of which is to revise my novel manuscript, The Side Door. Gizmo is here with me.
The whole idea sounded vaguely romantic when I thought it up. But now, two and one half days into the retreat, I see the pitfalls.
I recently downloaded some Laura Nyro songs from her final album, Angel in the Dark. The producer’s notes mention how important the imagination was to Nyro—it was the “ultimate, the center of spirituality.”
In working with first year college students and their writing, I notice their motivation rises when I give exercises or assignments that invoke their imaginations.
I have mentioned that I write regular letters to my students, and they write individual letters back to me. I recently wrote to them about how hard it is to get started writing sometimes. Here are snippets of some of their thoughts:
I enjoyed your letter. It expresses how many people feel when writing a paper or assignment. If there is no desire to write something, then it is hard to find something to write about…I may have an idea for one paragraph or only a few sentences, but the more I sit there in front of my computer, the more words just come spilling out of my head.
Lately, I have been thinking about the disconnect between the process of writing and the marketing of writing. I have been trying to write the perfect description that 1) makes someone want to read my novel and 2) makes someone believe it can sell. In essence, I am trying to put words to my voice, style, and vision.
A few weeks ago, my friend Rita sent me a book: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. In it, Tharp discusses what she calls “creative DNA.” I like this quotation:
As I move toward the mid-term of my teaching semester, I see how my students struggle with the complexities of writing. And maybe more to the point, I see how I struggle. The process itself, getting an idea, figuring out how to structure it, how to express it, how to communicate it. And even then, asking myself—students asking themselves: what makes it matter to anyone but me?
When I was a kid, I used to hear my father typing on his electric typewriter. I loved the sound the keys made, clicking and clacking in some perfectly imperfect rhythm. I remember sitting in his chair, one day when he wasn’t there, setting my fingers on the keys, determined to make that sound.
Using the ideas I wrote about in posts from August 15 and 17, I conducted my first days of class. I have two sections of the same first year class. And as usual, each section is completely unique. Even though I will presumably talk the same talk in each section, each group personality is decidedly different.
Still, the questions I pose in my August 15 post went over very well with both groups. On the second day of class, I paired students and had them use the questions as discussion points. I gave them approximately 20 minutes to discuss and come up with three thoughts/ideas/observations/questions that grew out of their conversations. I then collected these. I plan to use their responses as my opening into our next class meeting.