Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On coffee, dating and homework 

Sunday afternoon, Nina and I had a 4C celebration of her birthday month. I supplied the birthday Chocolate and homemade Chutney; Nina used her coffee card from this wonderful place for our Coffee: a heavenly smelling espresso/vanilla/orange/cinnamon concoction for her, and the very best mocha that I have ever tasted for me. The fourth C? Conversation, of the wide-ranging, "what were we talking about before we went off on this tangent?" sort. I love those kind of talks, and Nina and I fall into them easily.

At some point during the conversation, I told Nina that my plans for the rest of the day were a date with Paul for a movie, and then homework.

"A date and homework. That sounds like high school," she laughed.

"Oh, god, not high school! Let's not go back there."

"OK, then college. Undergrad? Or maybe grad school. Sounds like grad school?"

Grad school is more what it feels like. Although, when I was an undergrad, I was dating Paul... which tended to get in the way of my homework more than being married to him does now. (I had lousy study habits, and was a lot more hormone-driven then.)

My homework for tonight's writing class was to write critiques of three 5-15 page pieces written by fellow students. I struggled with this assignment. For most of my professional life, I've been the office copy editor. Coworkers have questions about grammar, sentence structure, word usage, punctuation? I'm the one they see. So my first inclination, when asked to look at someone's writing, is to grab one of my razor-sharp red pencils and have at it. But that's correcting, and that's not the point of these critiques. We were to focus on how the "narrator" (a literary construct created by the author) told the story. Structure, narrative voice, scenic development, characterization, dialogue; these were the topics to be critiqued. I put my red pencil away, pulled out a purple pen, and started making notes in the margins, rather than on the text. This is a completely different skill. It took me longer to do this sort of analysis than it would've taken me to clean up the writing. I finished at lunchtime today.

I have three critiques to write for each of the remaining classes this quarter. I hope I'll get quicker at it with practice. If not, you'll be seeing a lot more pictures of cats and buildings here, and a lot fewer words.