Saturday, May 13, 2017

Herding Words (and Due Dates)

Today I need to get my online class ready--it's not the zero hour yet, but it soon will be. 

When I teach online classes, I get a shell, but it's up to me to enter all the due dates.  And this class that starts Monday has lots of due dates.  My students will have at least 4 items due each week during the 6 week class.  As the woman who will do the grading, it exhausts me just thinking about it.

And because the shell doesn't autopopulate, I need to check various parts of the shell and put the dates there too. 

I thought I might write a short story this past week, but I didn't.  I had written a story in the voice of an HR director, which inspired my Sociology friend to write a piece, a scathing piece, in the voice of the Sociology professor.  I had planned to write a story in the voice of the poet, another character in my short story.  But I didn't make time to do that during the week days.

I had thought about waiting until my online class is over to start--I anticipate needing to spend every scrap of spare time for grading in the next 6 weeks.  But then, last night, I got a glimmer of how to start.  I thought about a great great grandfather (enough greats?) who drove cattle across a continent.  I thought about sheep.  I thought about all the farm animals that could make or break a settler family.

This morning, I just sat down to see what happens.  And now I know that I have a story, not just a blob of writing with a voice.  I think of my favorite undergraduate professor who said that a story must have a conflict.  I protested, and she said, "O.K., find me a story that doesn't."  I wasn't able to do that then or now.

When I sat down to write this morning, I was unsure of the conflict.  Because I didn't know the conflict, I couldn't have imagined the climax.  Now I have more than a glimmer.

It's interesting to approach writing as discovery--I usually like to know exactly where a piece is going, but this morning, I just sat down and said, let me see. So I don't know the poet's name at this point, but I do know that her great great grandfather herded cattle across the continent. I think the climax will involve the elimination of the big coffee machine and a goat farm in the panhandle.
Stay tuned!

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