Posted by: codecalla | March 12, 2015

Technology & Teaching

I haven’t used blogs for teaching with my students, but I have used journals and wiki pages.  I think there is a limit to how much one can produce while invested in other opportunities.  For myself, blogging takes time that I do not take nearly often enough.  Blogging is considered informal, and as an academic venture, it can be used to open a conversation.  I think preparing a blog entry can be challenging, especially when trying to find content.  I have many ideas about writing topics, but I usually give them to my students.  The use of technology feels pervasive, because sometimes one needs silence in order to process information.  Also I wonder how much of what we write online will come back to us in some kind of technological karma.  We can pursue topics at will, but anything of merit, worth taking time to consider, would require open discourse and comfort with the unknown audience.  So many conversations on the internet are derailed because of attention seeking, a desire to subvert communication, and boredom.  Closed communities may offer more support, but it could be challenging to find different ideas or perspectives.

Posted by: codecalla | November 8, 2014

three headed Cerberus

Currently working three jobs and going to school full time has dwindled the writing fever somewhat.  Each time my head breaks water and I catch a breath, something from the depths pulls me back down.  Rather than the Siren’s song of ungraded homework or Selkie’s desire for attention, I find myself desperately reaching for the life raft of Writing.  I have been writing in my head, but it needs to be released from the unjust imprisonment in my head.   In fact, a legal representative Musea has given me a legal brief that suggests that I should immediately release Writing forthwith in order to avoid further penalties.

I have been teaching, reading, and writing…another three-headed beast to go with the three jobs I currently possess.  It would be wonderful to have something publish ready before the end of the year.  No promises.  Now to work…”Here, Fluffy?”

Posted by: codecalla | September 1, 2014

Failsafe

Deadlines are usually the bane of my existence.  Purely on an academic note, I find myself dodging and dogging too many deadlines for myself, my students, and my education.  Writer deadlines are a nightmare.  I should write on a schedule.  But I don’t like it.  I should be able to write anywhere at anytime, but I find myself distracted.  I wonder if the age of internet and shallow reading has impacted my ability to concentrate or remember.

Is it my personality?  I do like to procrastinate.  Who should I blame?  Excuses come easily when we fail ourselves, others, and discover that failure is inexcusable.  When did failure become so terrible?  Why does it hurt so much to miss a deadline that impacts other people?

Is it perfectionism?  I tend to have high standards.  Maybe I have photoshopped myself in expectations.  I expect to be perfect, an ideal teacher, writer, student, but I am, after all human.

Maybe I should greet failure as I laud it to my students–a learning opportunity.  If only we could listen to ourselves and follow our own advice.

 

Posted by: codecalla | August 22, 2014

Lucy’s Corner 5 cents

The summer should have been a wonderful odyssey of writing two novels as originally planned, but the excuses and the Resistance I encountered were substantial…to my mind, anyway.

I imagine Lucy from Peanuts, who looks remarkably like my late cousin, to be scoffing in her booth, and shaking the money jar…”coins, beautiful coins” listening to my writerly concerns.  Here’s a little self-Lucy…

“Afraid to Write” is the underlying issue, and it wasn’t before…I couldn’t stop writing.  I wrote myself into carpal tunnel in both wrists…was that the beginning?  Was it the concerned looks and asides from relatives about writing and making a decent living before I entered college? Was it more recently, struggling to pay rent, the electric bills, and meet academic standards in my education, grading countless essays and giving advice to young academic writers…have I lost energy?

A great article or pep talk:  “Are You Too Scared to Write” by Marya Jan; tells you to stop second guessing yourself and get to it.  The most important point? “Stop comparing my writing with others” (Jan par. 7).

Another article compares the struggle to “dancing with fear” (Millin par. 8):  “Creative Writing and Fear” by Peggy Tabor Millin.  The most useful metaphor is that of “rowing out to sea” (Millin par. 8).  The idea expressed by Millin is that in order for writers “to find their heart, they had to be willing to be nailed by fear” (par. 6).

To be real, to be honest, we have to face our turmoil, our fears, and open ourselves up.  Beth Hayden stipulates in her article, “Why We Still Need to Write,” that “We have to keep writing” (par. 2).

Easier said than done…but it’s important to realize…we are not alone in our fear.

There are countless suggestions, but one article suggests breaking down the fears and fuel our writing process.  Ryan Urie offers thoughtful suggestions in his article, “How Fear Helps You to Write Better”.  It’s not over until you give up…and even then, you can always pick up the pencil, tablet, or voice recorder again.

Posted by: codecalla | June 2, 2014

Finding the Evil

Writing for me is an exploration of motivations, possibilities and adventure.  Unfortunately, one area that I struggle in is finding the capacity within myself to be ruthless with my characters.  I love them and don’t want them to suffer, but without suffering there wouldn’t be a story.  “Life is pain.”   So too, is fiction.  Fiction is pain because it’s a reflection of life.  In order to be true to life, it should reflect some of the pain.

Some of my characters will have to face terrible things…and it makes me feel guilty.  I’d rather we all just be happy.  But there’s no story, no point if they are all feeling fine.

I have to give myself permission to unleash the hounds of hell, and defeat them, or not.

Darkness needs light and light needs darkness.  And who’s to say that darkness is evil anyway?  It might be misappropriated.

 

 

Posted by: codecalla | May 10, 2014

Finals Week

Finals week…normally it’s a time of reflection and introspection, because by finals week, no matter how you hope it will end differently, the conclusion has been determined by previous choices of the students and the instructor.

Three colleges, three separate finals weeks for many classes and students.

Unfortunately, my brain wants to find solace in greenery, as it’s finally spring and I can see flowers, the grass, and hear mourning doves call sweetly.

Sleep deprivation is not only a concern for students.  Professors, too, have their moments of caffeine-dependency, and those moments when the professors wish fervently that the students could see their potential as much as the professors do.

Anxiety–fear of completion, fear of being judged, fear of failing, fear of letting someone down…so many students get bogged down by these concerns.

It’s truly sad, because the students are brilliant…they just have to realize it.

Posted by: codecalla | April 25, 2014

The Art of Getting Offended

Every potential interaction with other human beings, animals, inanimate objects, and nature itself creates a situation where offense is possible.  Our visceral reactions to outside stimuli can in fact limit our adaptability and ability to thrive.

1. When a storm throws a tree branch onto your vehicle while you are driving…do you..

  • “Oh, no, YOU didn’t!” anger (Perhaps take vengeance later on some potentially innocent tree)
  • Scream expletive of your choice out of fear.
  • Veer wildly
  • Maintain composure and deal with it

2.  Someone makes a joke that is derogatory toward others in ANY group

  • “Oh, no, YOU didn’t” anger
  • Laugh uproariously and then tell a better one with a different group as the focus
  • Frown and shake your head in disbelief, keeping silent about the offense
  • Mention that it’s hurtful toward others in that group, and you don’t find it funny

3.   Someone dares to disagree with you about any modern issue

  • “Oh, no, YOU don’t think you know more than me” anger
  • Add fuel to the fire, pointing out all of the problems on either side
  • Excuse yourself from the conversation, “I have to make a phone call, feed my cat, walk my parakeet” etc.
  • Listen carefully and calmly before answering their concerns sincerely.

We’re human.  We’re not perfect.  It’s easy to get offended.  The thing is that people manipulate others who are easily offended, by encouraging their emotional and visceral reactions, which are perfectly normal reactions.  Manipulators use the emotions to guide the listener’s reactions, beliefs, and thoughts toward an outcome that benefits the manipulator.  We have to learn to move beyond the visceral reactions to content.  We’re not all emotion.  We’re not all reason.  We misunderstand each other easily enough over cultural differences and methods of communication.    We don’t have to believe the same things, but we should at least recognize when we’re getting played by our own reactions.

I think that sometimes we have to open ourselves up a little and allow for offense in order to learn, but we should also recognize the boundaries of what’s truly important to us.  Let’s protect what’s important, and try to learn from each other.

Shakespeare said it best:

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”

Posted by: codecalla | April 24, 2014

Fertile Rabbit Gods

The spring invariably brings with it the melting of snow, rising of rivers, and traditional rain fall that savages asphalt.  Pot holes abound as if fertile rabbit gods that must somehow bring in the passing of the winter.

One such fertile rabbit god needed a sacrifice, and thus the round, rubbery appendage of my horseless carriage was sent off in sleepy fashion.   The slow rotation of time melded with the pavement and loss of breath, and finally, it gave its last sigh.

Yet, with spring, there is rebirth and life continues, so the replacement found itself in my care.

Although I understand that fertile rabbit gods are necessary signs of spring, I do wish they would be fed, and stop their carnal appetite.  Champions of spring, I call upon you!  Feed the rabbit gods!

Posted by: codecalla | April 24, 2014

Working Irony

The labor of love is still labor, and the procrastinator in me is ready to take on any challenger and fight them later…much later.  Teaching for three colleges takes its toll, especially in my creative spirit.  I have numerous ideas, which spawn whole novel concepts, which I jot down hurriedly, and then realize that I literally have no time that I feel I can write them in detail.

I feel like a shallow mud puddle skipper of creativity.  The ideas are there, but there is no time to say hello to the deep thrashing of ideas and carve out something that resembles what appears in my mind.  It’s so beautiful in my mind, so it’s impossible to replicate it, right? 

I have been studying various theories of education, research, and wracking my brain and my timepiece to meet all of the requirements.  Teaching 6 plus courses and taking a post graduate class is not exactly easy.  In fact, I should be terrified, if I weren’t so bloody tired. 

So sparking the creative juices, which will remain bottled, preserved, and hopefully won’t evaporate before sampling, is quite difficult.  Creativity begs for response.  I need to create.  I feel constrained by choices made and promises given, which others have no problem breaking.

So onward summer, “if music be the food of love, play on.  give me excess of it”, and “if writing is the key to sanity, trudge on.”

I had an idea for a sequel to the book I published, and now remains the scheduling it in to write the damn thing.  And the three, four, no, probably five other books that occurred to me that I should write.  Yes, it’s the labor part that’s the sticking point. 

The song “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” resembles my creative brain on procrastination….long to create…and fear it desperately. 

Posted by: codecalla | March 24, 2014

Longing for Starlight

When looking at the darkened winter sky, longing for a glimpse of starlight, I wonder why I live in a brightened city environment.  Where I grew up, it’s dark at night.  So dark that the night swallows you and you revel in it.  I could lie out in the front yard and look up at the sky and the stars were brilliant, scattered through the heavens, innumerable.  Now I’m tremendously excited by the glimpse of 1 star against the night sky.

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