Overcompensating

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It used to be that writing anything for a class was like pulling teeth. I couldn’t manage 500 words without agonizing over every word.

Then, as the years progressed, writing the bigger papers became easier. One thousand words became almost easy. I had a method: make the outline, flesh out the outline after many hours of careful sentence-crafting.

Then last semester happened. I had to write a 5,000 word paper about the works of Virginia Woolf. I wrote this paper over the course of four days. My fingers hurt for a week afterwards.

And this week, I’m writing a paper. I’m about 2/3 of the way through a paper that’s supposed to end at a maximum 1500 words.

I’ve written 1,468 words.

I’m going to have to trim. Trimming is almost worse than writing, because you can’t just hack away at the paper–you have to splice sentences together to make new, concise ones. You have to drop points you thought were important. It’s agonizing.

On the bright side, I’m more done than I thought I would be by the end of Wednesday night.

If You Give a Grad Student an Assignment

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If you give a grad student an assignment, she will probably ask to take a nap first.

If you let her take a nap, then she’ll want a snack when she wakes up.

When you give her a snack, she’ll probably want to check Facebook for a while, because it’s hard to do assignments while you’re eating.

If you let her check Facebook, she’ll see a link to a personality quiz that sounds really interesting and she’ll click on it.

Once she takes the quiz, she’ll have to look up the name of the film character whose personality matches hers because she’s never seen that movie.

After she reads the movie’s plot synopsis, she’ll want to look up a few clips of the movie on YouTube.

She might notice that her keyboard is filthy, so she’ll need a damp paper towel to clean it.

She might clean the screen, too.

And also her whole apartment.

After her apartment is clean, she will buckle down and look through all her syllabi so see what’s ahead for the next few weeks.

When she sees how much is due in the month of March, she’ll want to write due dates down in her planner so she won’t forget.

And when she opens her planner, she’ll see that there’s an assignment written down that’s due tomorrow.

And if she sits down to work on the assignment…she’ll probably want a nap to go with it.

Spring Has Sprung

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I wore a coat today. Then I wondered why I bothered. The forecast said to expect a high of 46 but we got up to 64 today. Because Anytown.

I went to the library tonight and didn’t get frostbite on the way in.

The air smelled of hope and daffodils. There were no daffodils to smell after last week’s snow, so I’m still trying to figure that out. But there were daffodils.

I could walk to lunch without needing to tuck my chin into my scarf and shiver. In fact, I didn’t shiver at all today.

The weather made up for the fact that it’s Monday, and Mondays should be banned.

Spring is back. I am eager for the green that is March, the blue that is April, and the blue that is May.

Warning

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This week is when it all gets real.

Wedding prep has left me in a mental state that only allows minimal attention on class work. I’ve been getting things done, but not with my normal degree of concentration and obsessive focus. Grades have been hit-and-miss. Not horrible. Not Harvard, either.

But this month, all the things must get done. Papers must be written. Presentations put together. Everything happens, and these posts are going to get even shorter.

I may be sharing portions of the whopping papers I’ll be writing, though.

Just so y’all are aware. Bear with me, patient friends, as I try to focus for the next few weeks.

Dear Upstairs Neighbors

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I’m glad you know how to have a good time. Really.

I understand the value of a good time. I try to let myself laugh long and loud on a regular basis–for health reasons, mostly. The more I laugh, the happier and therefore healthier I am.

But really.

I’m not sure if you hold bowling matches in your apartment, or if you just rearrange the furniture on a daily basis. Hearing the amount of laughter and general jocularity trickling down from my ceiling, I’d say bowling.

Also, how many people live in your apartment, and of what gender? Judging by the mixed gender laugh track and the way the ceiling shakes sometimes, I’d assume the whole cast of FRIENDS is up there.

And another thing–must you synchronize your showers with mine? It would be great to get to the end of my day and be able to take a long, hot shower.  And that’s probably what you’re thinking, too, but something about the plumbing in this building defers all of the hot water to you the minute you turn the spigot. Don’t think I can’t hear you turn it, either.

There was the time you all did that singsperation late on a Saturday night. I’m sure it was an inspirational moment for ya’ll, and I’m happy for you, but some of us have homework to do and don’t want to hear you belt out choruses at 11:00 at night.

I’m sure you’re just as excited as I am about life and all it entails, but try to remember you live with a dozen other people in this building, and the walls and ceilings are paper-thin.

Much love,

Your Neighbor

Questions Asked Daily

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In no particular order:

  1. Will I ever write that book?
  2. I wonder what the soup of the day at the dining common is?
  3. What on earth is due tomorrow?
  4. How many hours do I need to be clocked in today?
  5. How many days until I get married?
  6. I wonder if there will be any hot water left by the time I get back to the apartment or if the neighbors will have used it all?
  7. Is tonight a good night to make brownies?
  8. Where on earth did that book get off too????
  9. Where did I leave my _________ ?
  10. Did I forget something?

Surprises

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  1. Snow converts itself to puddles twice as quickly when you really don’t want to go to class in the afternoon.
  2. No matter how much sleep you get, you’ll still doze off after lunch.
  3. It’s possible to make a serving of cake in a mug.
  4. Those keys I found after I’d lost them were not actually my keys.
  5. The gym is not closed tomorrow, nor is tomorrow the 28th.
  6. March is next week.
  7. Also, 60 degree temperatures.
  8. Someone RSVPed on our wedding website.
  9. Lady Gaga can actually sing like a human being.
  10. Tomorrow’s Friday. Wasn’t expecting that.

Wish Granted

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So it snowed in our little stretch of the woods. And it’s beautiful.

It’s all over the roads and the trees and the grass. It’s covered the cars and the outdoor tables and covered walkways.

Snow makes everything quiet. Like the earth pulls and white blanket over its head and takes a nap.

And even if classes aren’t cancelled tomorrow afternoon, the snow was worth the beauty of it. Worth the excitement of hurrying home and snuggling deep in a pile of blankets with my reading of choice.

Every so often, we’re given exactly what we wish for.

Productivity

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Productivity has many definitions.

Mine is the result of the following conditions:

  1. Plenty of sleep.
  2. Just enough food.
  3. Frequent exercise.
  4. Smashing outfits.
  5. An hour of focused work.
  6. Occasional game breaks.
  7. Another hour or two of focused work.
  8. Task lists.
  9. Lots of water.
  10. A clean work environment.
  11. Bed by midnight.

And if I can work nap and yoga breaks in there, well, the more will get done.

Otherwise I just feel like a slob and you can forget about it.

Dumb WordPress is Dumb

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Greetings, friends.

It has come to my attention that 1) yesterday’s blog post never appeared in my subscribers’ inboxes and 2) the text for my February 22nd mysteriously changed to completely new content.

I’m sure some of my more loyal followers are wondering why on earth I chose such a random time to break my record of writing something every day.

Last night I started a new post in the same tab as my post from the previous night. The tab was labeled “New Post” and gave me a blank document to work with, so I assumed that I was, in fact, writing a new blog post.

Somehow I actually ended up editing away the post from Sunday night.

I have not broken my record. WordPress’s programming is stupid sometimes, that’s all. So this is a filler post for yesterday.

If you’re that sad about yesterday’s post, it’s still on the blog, just written down as for the 22nd and not the 23rd.

if you care.

If not, please ignore this ramble.

Forecast

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So it’s supposed to snow again tomorrow. But the weather channel keeps changing its mind.

It was the image of optimism this morning. (Or pessimism, depending on your perspective.)

“An inch of snow tonight and early tomorrow morning!” cried the weather channel. “Three to five inches of accumulation Wednesday night! 100% chance!!! BUY ALL THE BREAD AND MILK!!”

By the afternoon, it was less assertive.

“Maybe some snow tonight. Definitely really early tomorrow morning. But there’s still going to be snow on Wednesday! 90%!!”

And by tonight, it was all like:

“Maybe snow tonight. Maybe snow Wednesday. Meh.”

And by tomorrow morning, the report will be “Rain. Just cold and rain. For days.”

I honestly think the weather channel is all about getting our hopes up and then squashing them like little bugs. Because if it’s not going to be magically warm and sunny again, at least give us some snow.

But no. Just rain.

Days and days of rain.

The Research

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At this point in my academic career, I’ve written a lot of papers and read (or skimmed) a lot of criticism. I’ve written on everyone from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Virginia Woolf and everything from prose to poetry. I’ve read a little bit of everything about all of these subjects by people with alphabet soup served after their names.

By the end of the semester, I will have written a paper about criticism itself, which will only happen after reading criticism about criticism. Critiception.

After all of this reading, I can only come to one conclusion: people read into things way too much.

I’ve read fiercely feminist interpretations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I’ve read criticism of Hopkins’ poetry that strips him of his faith in God. And now I’ve read heavily eroticised interpretations of Measure for Measure. There’s nothing I haven’t read at this point.

(Never mind. Of course there are things I haven’t read, but the hyperbole is there for comedic emphasis. Deal.)

It’s like people can’t let a story be a story. Of course, the story means something, but most interpretations of literature make wild conjectures that I feel sure would make the authors weep should they read them. The best thing any critic could do is sit the author down and have a chat with him or her about the work’s meaning. Trouble is, most works can’t be called “literature” unless the author is dead, and usually white and/or male. “White” and “male” we can work with, but “dead” is unfortunately non negotiable. Dead guys are powerful hard to have conversations with.

Good literature can stand on its own two feet, it’s true. Good literature can have a life beyond its author. But sometimes a story is just a story. There’s a plot, there’s a climax, there’s resolution. We’re kept on edge from start to finish. We laugh, we cry, we empathise, and we wonder what we might have done if we had been in the main character’s situation.

And that’s that.

Sometimes squeezing meaning from a work of literature robs the story of its independence and its beauty. Yes, the painting may be made up of little dots, but look at the finished product! There’s a big picture every author wants to make, and it takes a lot of subtlety to make the stories as rich as they are. So let that art stand in beauty and marvel at it–not rip it to shreds.

And by “rip it to shreds” I mean “force your own agenda into a work of literature so you can say See?? This old dead guy agrees with me!

Because that’s just rude.

Beginnings

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It starts in strange ways.

Not always a masquerade ball, and not always a balcony scene. But it starts.

Not always the way it happens in musicals. Not always with a song or a choreographed musical number. Not always. But it starts.

Not always the way it is in books. Not always in the first chapter, and not always with a stellar description of his eyes or a witty comment from the girl. But it starts.

Not always in a bookstore or a cafe or during a quest or on the moors of Scotland, but it starts.

There are as many love stories as there are people in the world. And they all start in different ways. They all start with a bang or a murmur or complete silence. And they start.

Love starts a lot of wonderful things. Lives turn around or upside down when love starts. Love’s start can revolutionize a human being. Love starts magic where magic was gone.

Love starts.

And real love doesn’t ever stop.

Jitterbug Brained

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It’s like my brain is hopping around inside my skull.

A bird on a power line, its little feet tingling with energy. Its little wings fluttering to keep balance,

My brain sees the information on the page, but shakes it off like a dog shakes off water after a bath. The bath is good for the dog, but the dog would rather be dry. The notes on the page are good for the brain, but the brain would rather be sleeping and empty.

My brain repels focus like two magnets repelling each other. Nothing is absorbed; all rational elements are pinging off the surface and skidding across the frictionless floors of my mind.

It doesn’t want to memorize lists of why Helena from All’s Well that Ends Well wasn’t a social climber and lists of who was surprised by who at the end of Measure for Measure. The words all become a jumble of ideas in my mind, not the clear, focused outline that my professor gave me in class.

Either it’s time to study harder, or go to sleep.