I once knew someone who didn’t like English classes because she had no interest in made-up stories; she wanted to know about the real world.
You might imagine that we were not close friends, and you’d be right.
I have spent my life steeped in narrative. As a child, I told myself the story of my life as it happened to me, to the point where I sometimes had to stop myself murmuring “he said” or “she said” after someone spoke in my presence. That wore off as I got older, but to some degree I have continued to see myself living in a story about what I’m doing. In graduate school, for instance, I was the heroine of a novel about a graduate student who proved to everyone that there really was a dissertation in the topic I wanted to write on, even though the faculty spent four years dismissing it. Not only that, I was the plucky heroine who could buckle down and write it in two years, in defiance of the person who told me I couldn’t possibly write a dissertation in two years.
Now I find it’s helpful to have a story, or maybe I mean to inhabit a role, when it comes to both teaching and writing. It helps me power through a pile of grading if I am being the Stern Yet Helpful Teacher who hands back papers with insightful, useful comments. It helps me put in the effort to write a few sentences at the end of a long day if I see myself as the Dedicated Scholar Who Always Makes Time To Write. Implicit in these views is the promised happy ending: the students whose lives are changed for the better, the publication in the prominent journal.
I have a new story this week. This one is about the slow-to-publish scholar who discovers that she is about to be scooped, and manages to organize and focus her life so as to finish off the opus in suitably short order and send it off to a worthwhile journal in time to make it the other person who gets scooped.
Wish me luck.
Starting this week, please use the 4-paragraph format for your comments:
1. Last week’s goal.
2. What was achieved toward that goal.
3. Comments/analysis of what worked or what went wrong.
4. Goal for the next week.
Here’s the roll call:
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell