Thursday, January 31, 2008

Punctuality (100x11)

I do not want to write about punctuality. Truth to tell, I am not all that crazy about assigned topics in the first place, their primary pedagogical purpose being, so far as I can tell, to allow teachers, and in the best case scenario, the students as well, to compare apples to apples, squash to squash, lightning bolt to lightning bolt. “Look at what Amanda did with punctuality! Isn’t that cool?” All of which is well and good: this is how we learn to write, by broadening our sense of the possibilities. But not for me, not today. Maybe tomorrow.

Process Reflection: I seem to be getting a lot of my writing work done when I’m in that zone between being half awake and half asleep. At 4:30 this morning I woke up and as I was trying to get back to sleep I got to thinking about the topic for today’s assignment. Until yesterday, I didn’t even know that the students in Barbara’s class, where I got the idea for this little 30 day exercise, were using topics. But yesterday I finally figured out how to find the class blog and there it was, the topic for the day, and I thought, okay, maybe I’ll try that. So I actually did some thinking about punctuality as a topic, and this morning as I lay in bed trying unsuccessfully to get back to sleep, I even had a story taking shape in my head about the time when I was a newly-married student teacher in Nanakuli and invited my cooperating teacher and her husband over for dinner at 6:30. We had dinner on the table at the appointed time; they showed up at 7:20. That was my first introduction to the concept of “Hawaiian time,” which is anywhere from an hour to two weeks past whatever it says on the clock. But there was this other voice in my head that was saying, Nah, I don’t want to go there.

I finally figured out that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep before it was time to get up anyway, so I hauled myself out of bed and opened my journal and the first sentence that came out of my pen was “I do not want to write about punctuality,” so I said to myself, there, okay, let’s see where that leads. (I was not unaware that in beginning that way I was in fact writing about punctuality, albeit in an obliquely oppositional way. Which leads us to one of those tricky existential questions: can you fulfill an assignment by making the decision not to fulfill the assignment? Hmm. I wonder…) Anyway, at that point my writerly focus shifted, briefly, to punctuation. (Etymologically related to punctuality, via the Latin punctum, which means “point.” Does that count?) In the second sentence, I got interested in the cadences of the sentence, the interruptive, additive qualities of the emerging voice (not, of course, unlike my own, when I am holding forth, as I can’t help but do (there, I’m doing it again)), which is what led to all those commas.

So then I was up over the 50 word mark, more than halfway home, and so I shifted over to the computer and typed up what I had and added what I thought I wanted to add and did a word count and oops, I was at 122, so I had to go back and work on a more compact dismount. Got it down to 98 words and had two more to go, and then couldn’t resist adding “Maybe tomorrow,” as my little punctuality joke. So now it’s just about exactly an hour since I stumbled out of bed and I’ve got my assignment done. Time to get started on my day. Have to leave for school promptly at 7:00.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I love this, Bruce, and how you also picked up some of our other topics.
I've got to agree, in principle, about assigning topics--but since everything else they're doing for this class is up to them, they wanted to set topics as a constraint to force them to be Houdini-like. And I've got to admit, I love having them force me to write about something I don't want to write about, or don't care to write about. Their words open the doors to memory, image and thought that I probably wouldn't have accessed otherwise. And the comparisons that naturally result help us think about form and identity and imagination.

Glad you're still writing along with us.