Attention conservation notice: A roundup of my week and some interesting things going on in my life.
I slept until 10AM this morning. Lately my insomnia’s back, caused by turning my brain all but white-hot with all the things I have to write, study, read, finish and think about beginning as early as 9 a.m. and finally winding down as late as 11:30.
Twelve credit hours and a mentally demanding part-time job can take it right out of a person, and my writing for the Blue Banner in particular is a huge strain. But already things seem to be leveling out.
The Cynn Chadwick profile (which BTW is now over at BlogAsheville with Professor Chadwick’s permission) really was a turning point in my life as a writer.
It was well-written enough, but trite in parts and packed with errors. The work I have historically done as a writer has tended either to pose no grammar or punctuation challenges (ad copy and web copy are bloody straightforward) or to belong to a world where content and story just mattered more (writing for teens, alternative weekly writing, city guide writing).
Now I feel like everything matters. I feel like I am finally starting that Black Belt in grammar/punctuation I always thought I had and didn’t at all. Two weeks — a mere two weeks — of writing for a well-run college paper has shone a harsh light on my writing weaknesses as nothing ever has before.
I tried to take apart my whole Chadwick article in a blog post and explain all my errors, but it ended up being 2,300 words long and very difficult to present, so I shelved the idea. But here’s two highlights, just in case you’re asking yourself what on earth was wrong with that perfectly good article.
Here’s your answer. A lot:
Some sample text cut from the article that I turned in:
That was more than 10 years ago. Now her kids are grown and she spends her days spicing up the lives of her students, who find themselves with a professor who once revealed that after her divorce she threw her wedding ring from off the top of a mountain. She might have a fondness for informality, profanity and dryly delivered outrageousness (”I would have become a homeless, crack-addicted prostitute in Weehawken, New Jersey was it not for getting an education,” she says. “It’s obvious.”). But she’s also a literature professional.
Execrable punctuation: How many periods are in that third sentence, anyway?
Italics are not used in print journalism.
That was more than 10 years ago. Now her kids are grown and she spends her days spicing up the lives of her students. “I would have become a homeless, crack-addicted prostitute in Weehawken, New Jersey was it not for getting an education,” she says, “it’s obvious.” Chadwick might have a fondness for informality, profanity and dryly delivered outrageousness, but she’s also a literature professional.
On my first day of class my newswriting class the professor asked us to tell a little about ourselves. I said I was a freelance writer. She said, “Well, I guess you already know a lot of what we’ll be learning.” And I said, “No, I bet I won’t.”
The class laughed, and she looked confused. But newswriting is its own strict world, and its ways are new to me, as I felt certain they would be. I have the art but not the craft.
So far, despite my previous aversion to that kind of writing, I find that these new rules are a delight to my mind and heart. I doubt I’ll ever enjoy doing interviews or tracking down quotes (both of which are time-consuming and annoying as hell), but I like being asked to provide only well-presented facts and not opinions.
I don’t care to go out and forage for facts, but once they’re all in the basket I like the logic-game of arranging them and seasoning them with quotes. You know, maybe it was really magazine-writing and alt-weekly writing that I was calling “journalism” when I said how much I disliked journalism. Because it really would be cool to be a foreign correspondent, is all I’m saying.
All my classes are going well. I attend a liberal arts college, and while I’m a huge fan of the liberal arts approach, some classes are still bullshit. Like my Humanities 324 class, which is exposing me to Great Ideas, but is such a scattered, 1/4-inch-deep way of learning that it leaves me feeling unfulfilled.
But my newswriting class is challenging, useful and interesting. My writing for the Blue Banner has initiated me into the real rules of journalism (AND PUNCTUATION) at last, making me a far better and more powerful writer than I was before. And my International Relations class is just an endless intellectual delight. It’s like a wonderful nourishing meal for my mind, three days a week. Delicious!
I’ve made nothing but A’s all semester, and the work delights me and comes easily. Which isn’t to say I don’t have to work for it; I do, and very hard. But unlike when I studied math and science, my studies now reward me with flow, skill and mastery, not failed tests, a C+ and endless nights of despair.
Before I go start my day slaving in the yard I’d like to thank the people who nominated me for two categories in the BlogAsheville awards put on annually by Asheville’s extremely welcoming, talented and active blogging community, which I am very happy to be part of. My nominations are for Best New Blog and Blog Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. My sincere thanks to Gordon, Shad and Uptown Ruler (?) for the noms.
In a happy surprise, I recently learned that I sort of know a local blogger and didn’t even know it — Pixiedyke of What the Hell? is a river companion and shares my dear friends Laura and Katie with me.
What the Hell?, thanks for the State Fair quotes and congrats on your loads of noms for Blogger I’d Most Like to See Naked.
(Photo: Edgy Mama’s Flickr stream, via BlogAsheville)
BTW I’ve seen Pixiedyke in a red bikini lolling drunkenly on a raft, and I support her nomination.