Thursday, September 08, 2016

Clearing a space for writing

Two weeks into the semester and I'm already failing to live up to expectations. My students are great and my classes are going well, but I'm not exercising or remembering to wear earrings or avoiding angry diatribes as much as I ought to. Worst of all, I'm not writing much--and I don't much like what I am writing.

On Sunday afternoon, for instance, a beautiful day when everyone I know was outside kayaking or hiking, I spent nearly two hours writing up the minutes from last week's Faculty Council meeting, perhaps the deadliest form of writing known to humankind. I can only hope that Council will have a less complicated meeting the next time it's my turn to take minutes.

I've dashed off plenty of e-mails (arranging an author visit, reminding students of course requirements, tracking down an errant textbook), but I've done precious little of the kind of writing that restores my soul. I've barely touched the draft of the conference paper I'm delivering next month, for instance, and I haven't written many blog posts or even a single silly limerick.

I tell my writing students to make regular time for writing in their busy lives--make a regular appointment so the Muse knows when to show up, and then sit and write whether you feel inspired or not. But last evening I came home after a late meeting intent on writing a brilliant blog post but got distracted by the presence of a census worker in my living room, a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen, and a baseball game on the radio. By the time I'd found a free moment, my brain was tired.

Which is why I appreciate the Writing Refuge concept. It wasn't my brilliant idea, but I'm happy to be involved in making it happen: once a week a spacious classroom in the library is reserved for faculty members seeking a distraction-free place to write. I took my laptop over there on Tuesday, posted the Writing Refuge sign on the door, and sat down in the big empty room all by myself. At first I checked my e-mail and thought about grading a set of online quizzes--who would know that I wasn't writing? But then something about the dedication of a space to the act of writing made me set all that aside and get to work.

I opened the draft of my conference paper and surprised myself: it's farther along than I'd expected. Within minutes I was immersed in revision, carried forward by the flow of words, and when my hour was up, the feeling of accomplishment energized the rest of my afternoon. The draft is still a mess, but it's no longer a big scary mess; taming the beast, making it manageable, felt like success.

Today I'll start the day with exercise and I may remember to wear earrings, but I'm not making any promises about angry diatribes on another Faculty Council day. But one thing I will do: clear space for writing. Even if it's just a silly limerick.  


Bardiac said...

What a GREAT idea the refuge is!

I wrote my dept meeting minutes in verse once; I did different styles, haiku, Spenserian stanzas, and, if I recall correctly, a sonnet. Fortunately, it was a short meeting. (And at the end I produced a standard version, naturally.) It was very popular!

Bev said...

Now you're tempting me to write Council minutes in verse...but what rhymes with "assessment"?