Friday, February 18, 2011

Formal Training and other Nonsense

Sam and I are going to Reno this weekend to hang out with the Swensons, so we stopped on the way to hang out with James and Monica to break up the trip a bit.  My silly professors apparently didn't schedule their assignments around what's most convenient for me, so I have two papers due on Tuesday...which means I'll be doing homework part of the time instead of hanging out with the family.  Sad face.  (If you know me, you know that homework often comes wayyyyy after family hangout time, so I may or may not just pull an all-nighter on  Monday to get it done.)  I came to Starbucks this morning to start on the homework before we head the rest of the way to Nevada...but the multiple high school kids sitting in here are making it a little hard to concentrate...thus, a blog!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about formal training.  My English classes are wonderful; I feel like I'm learning a lot and remembering a bit how to write.  After a break of about seven years, I'm enjoying being immersed in the language and ideas having to do with writing and reading.  I know I'm benefiting from these classes.  Yet there are times when it just feels so...uncreative.  To learn all the technical aspects of it - it almost takes away the magic of it.

Bear with me as I try to explain these thoughts, which are, I'm afraid, still unsettled.  I guess I just find it weird for a teacher to explain to me, This is how you should write a sentence, or, This is how you should write an analytical essay, or, This is how you can use rhetoric to persuade your readers.  It feels odd because I think I do these things without thinking about them.  I've come to a comfortable place in writing because of how much I read.  I know what grammar makes sense because I can tell when something looks wrong.  I have read so many brilliant writers that I inevitably incorporate their ways of writing into my own, so that out flows rhetoric and proper sentence structure without my having to think about it.

I'm not saying I have nothing more to learn.  I know there are plenty of ways I can improve, and I already feel like my writing is getting better because of the knowledge I'm gaining in my classes.  I guess I just have this thing about technical training.  It's the same with music.  I much prefer raw talent to trained musicians.  There's something about trained voices that make them all sound a bit similar, and sometimes that beautiful, unique quality is lost.  Take Johnny Cash for example.  He took three voice lessons and was told by his teacher to stop taking lessons, so that no one changed the way he sang.  Would he still have that same always-recognizable, amazing tone that had a huge effect on the music world if he'd continued to be formally taught how to sing?

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Q&A session with Jamaica Kincaid yesterday, a naturally gifted writer who has enjoyed immense success.  Her thoughts on writing somewhat confirmed my thoughts and even raised more questions for me.  She admitted that she often starts sentences with conjunctions, which, according to proper grammar, is incorrect.  Some formally trained writer told her she wasn't supposed to do that, and yet she continues to do so because it adds such a beautiful element to her writing.  It doesn't matter that she doesn't follow what is technically correct; her own style is even better because she doesn't follow the rules.  I'm glad she chose not to listen to those who told her to change.  If she had, we might have lost another great voice to the chorus of indistinguishable voices that blend together into a boring, carbon-copy sound.

I really don't have a definite opinion on the matter.  I'm just full of thoughts and questions.  Don't worry, I'm not planning to drop out of school in order to avoid the technical training.  But creating is a messy process, one that I happen to appreciate because of the lack of order.  If I outlined all my blogs or planned just what I wanted to say before I started writing, I fear so much would be lost from the lack of spontaneity.  I want to glean what I can from my brilliant professors who unquestionably have more knowledge and experience than I have.  At the same time, I know that I have my own voice, my own style, that may or may not align with conventional rules.  So what do I do?  I think I'll just keep on writing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Thoughts on this Valentine's Day

Reader beware: if you are one of those super sentimental romantic types, you may not like what I have to say.

The truth is, I have mixed emotions about Valentine's Day.  I don't really have it all figured out in my head, which is why I'm writing about it.  I write because it helps me make sense of my thoughts.  So if this post seems jumbled and if I change my mind by the end, it's just because my mind isn't really made up.  But these are my thoughts.

The truth is, I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day in the way that it currently exists.  I don't so much care about the gifting and commercialism (though this is something I dislike about Christmas), but it's more the exclusivity Valentine's Day represents.   Lest any of you think my reasons are because I've been disappointed in this day by anyone, rest assured that Sam is an amazing Valentine.  I've actually been this way for quite awhile.

Back in high school, I was a proud founding member of the aforementioned NBTC, that is, the Non-Boyfriend Table Club.  This group was formed when four friends and I decided we didn't like being ostracized simply because we didn't have boyfriends.  (We also thought boys were quite a waste of time in high school, and, I would argue, had all the more fun because we avoided such relationships.  Disclaimer: if you were in a relationship in high school and had a great experience, that's great for you.  I'm merely speaking of my own personal preferences.)  Beth, Bree, Marci, Amy and I all agreed that it was okay to have a boyfriend, so long as you didn't exclude others who didn't have boyfriends.  We figured that when we were older we would be married, and then we would be right to put a man before our friends.  But high school was not the time for that.

But I digress.  Back to Valentine's Day.  The truth is, I remember all too well those past February 14ths when I had no Valentine.  To hear about all these people getting flowers or chocolates (yuck, chocolate) or stuffed animals just reminded me that I didn't have a special someone.  And did I need that reminder?  No.  I was reminded of that nearly every day, so why set aside a particular day to remind all those singles that hey, this year you're still single.

I don't think we should eliminate Valentine's Day.  But what is the need for it?  Am I grateful when Sam takes me out to a nice dinner on Valentine's Day?  Yes.  Would I be far more impressed if he did it on some other random Monday night for no reason at all (which he does)?  Indeed.  I guess I just feel that it is somewhat unnecessary.  He and I are in a relationship every day of the year, and every day we should be making each other feel special and loved.  I understand that for people who have busier lives (or especially kids!) it's hard to make that time as often, so to have a day set aside for that is a good reminder to put in the effort.  So in that respect, Valentine's Day is a good thing.

But similarly...how goes Mother's Day for the teenager whose mother has just died, or for the woman who has tried for so many years without success to become pregnant and become a mother herself?  Isn't Mother's Day a painful reminder of what is missing?  In the same way I don't believe we should do away with Mother's Day.  But I guess I am just sad for those who dread these days because of the pain they represent.

Like I said, I don't know.  I don't have it figured out.  Do we need to be so public about it?  I do understand the desire to "brag" about one's relationship, to tell the world that he got you flowers, or she surprised you with breakfast in bed.  It is nice to validate your significant other in that way.  I love telling others when Sam does something sweet for me because I know it is fulfilling to him to hear me praise him publicly.  But I'm also ashamed to admit that sometimes my motives aren't so pure.  I am certainly guilty of doing it to brag about what I have, even to make others jealous of the position I'm in.  Wretched!  Why rub it in someone's face who is possibly already feeling lonely?  Hopefully none of you are as horrid as I am.

I do think it's wonderful to set aside a day to celebrate love!  Love is a many splendid thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love!  (Thank you Moulin Rouge.)  But I'd love the focus to be on all different forms of love.  Romantic love, yes, but also the love between friends, parents and their children, siblings, and the like.  Include everyone in on the celebration, equally.

Like I said, I haven't figured it all out in my mind, and I'm not really sure what position I take on this day.  My dear patient husband is really a trooper for putting up with me and my ridiculousness. :) Anyway, here are some pictures from our fun hearts day.

where I found the boys when I got home from work - video games!


love bug!

that's right...this would be how I'd want to spend any special occasion!

hard to see, but that's Sam & Gio walking through Petaluma after we had dinner at the delicious Old Chicago (which used to be a brothel)


that's right people. cherry dump cake after dinner. YUM!!

just a lil bit of heaven

willow with her valentine
It's fun to have a reason to celebrate.  But why can't our reason just be life?  Hey, it's Thursday afternoon and we are loved by God - let's celebrate!  I'm okay with that.  And I think I'll work on making that more the way I live - celebrating every moment for the gift that it is.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

No Time-o

I am so blessed to be in school right now.  I am also blessed to be majoring in something that I really enjoy and really want to learn more about.  I am so excited to improve my writing.

I keep saying that to myself when I realize I don't have time anymore to write the things I want to write about.  I'm writing plenty these days people - believe me!  It's just I have to write about books I don't really enjoy and subjects I don't really care for.

Oh for the day when I've paid my dues and can write about what I really enjoy!  All this to say that I won't be blogging much in the coming weeks.  Going to hang out with the Swenson clan next weekend, so I'm trying to get ahead in my classes so that I don't have to worry about homework while I'm there.  Once I figure out how to be a student again and not be such a perfectionist about it, I may have some more time to blog.  Until then...I sure will miss it.

Have a great weekend!

P.S. The title of this blog is a shout-out to my beloved NBTC...miss you ladies!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

3 Days In

Okay we've got to be short tonight, since I have a lot of reading to do.  (You'd think this would make me sad, but it doesn't.  I get to read Moby Dick, and books about how to be a better writer - this is fun!)  But I did want to share a few things.

First of all, it's so weird having to listen for my name to be called sooner.  As a "W" you know you have a long way to wait during roll call.  "S" comes earlier...not by a whole lot, but enough to make me notice and feel weird that I'm not at the end.

Second, being an English major is awesome.  It's so cool even to be in classes with other people who think the way I do about reading and writing!  And some of my peers are just plain brilliant.  I look forward to learning from them, and being inspired by them.  My professors are equally awesome.  My advanced composition class counts as an elective for my major, but also counts for the writing test that every student, regardless of major, must pass.  So there are a lot of non-English majors in that class.  As our instructor explained that he understood no one was taking the class out of sheer passion for writing essays, I nearly corrected him.  Um yes, sir, I do want to learn how to write better essays and am excited about it.

That's all we have time for today, class!  Although sometime soon (this weekend perhaps?) I would like to write about my lost confidence as a student...and maybe figure out how to get it back.  But for now, happy reading!
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