Thursday, November 24, 2011

sgwordy says...

I am on a forum for people who love flashlights.

(so much love for the internet)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The 500th

My first post was on Jan 19, 2009 (and in it i complained about fb! jeez! you'd think in almost three years i could have rustled up some new topics). I thought in this, my 500th post, I would share the winding road that led me to start posting stuff on the internet.

I've enjoyed writing for as long as I remember. Even so, I didn't - and don't - consider myself a writer. I remember getting lots of encouragement about becoming a writer (this is when I was pretty young) and receiving lots of "she'll be a writer someday" comments. But I never really did want to be a writer. I'm just someone who likes to write. It might be that some see no distinction between these but I think of writers as the people who say "I have all these stories that have to be told" or "I can't stay sane if I don't write." I don't have any of these problems. I have lots of stories in my head but if they stay there it's not really a problem. If I go months without writing anything I don't really think much of it. But the fact remains that I quite enjoy writing and I always come back to it.

I've gone through phases of writing just about everything but I always come back to fiction and short non-fiction. They are my favorites. Anyway, because I've always enjoyed writing there was a time in which I was repeatedly gifted with journals. I think at one time "journaling" was quite the thing and if you enjoyed
writing of course you "journaled" because even people who didn't like writing kept journals. I never did. I could never keep up with it for more than a couple of days. I didn't have anything to say on most days. I didn't want to recount my day (boring!), list out my problems (not productive for my type of problem solving), or carry on about my joys. So I quietly collected a pile of blank journals and wrote stories and poetry on loose leaf, lined paper.

Now let's fast forward to my junior year of college. This is before the internet as we now know it, its ubiquity and its speed. It was still the type of thing you could choose not to participate in. (I'm just trying to paint a picture of the prevailing technological vibe at the time I was introduced to the Writer's Notebook.) So there I am entering my second semester after transferring to a new university and finding that my first couple years of over-achieving (I was much more ambitious in my youth:) had left me with credits to spare. I flipped through the class catalog (do they even print these anymore?) and signed up for the only writing class that fit into my schedule: Writing for Teachers. This was an upper-level English course for education majors. There were ~20 students and, except for me, every student was planning to teach high school English or similar. The class was devoted to teaching future teachers how to teach writing.

I was dubious when I saw the syllabus and assigned texts but the class turned out to be fantastic, its instructor a person I consider it to have been my great good fortune to know. (Plus I always liked how she was obviously intrigued and pleased to have a science major sign up for her class.) There is much I could say about that class but my focus here is on the Writer's Notebook and how it and Dr. Betsy Ervin changed my writing life.

The Writer's Notebook was tackled pretty much right out of the gate. Dr. Ervin wanted it to be a tool we used as her students and a tool we would share with our students one day (I use "we" loosely as I was not bound for an English classroom). The Writer's Notebook was to be a place that we used to record what we observed of the world around us. It was meant to make us more observant and sensitive to events and the people we encountered. She went out of her way to define all the ways in which it was NOT a journal and that we were not journaling (sgwordy breathed a big sigh of relief:). The Writer's Notebook was to be a companion to our writing not to us.

I was hooked from day one.

I still have all my Writer's Notebooks and I'm going to pull that first one out just to give an example of the types of things I chose to include in it.

-overheard statements around campus, at work, while traveling.
-descriptions of buildings
-a drawing of an overhead view of an island I had short-lived ideas of working on
-telephone numbers of friends, grocery lists (this of course being contraband but needs must)
-story ideas
-essay ideas
-character sketches
-portions of stuff I was writing (always nice to follow through on a scene or idea right when it comes to you)
-vocab lists

This first Writer's Notebook was a large sketch diary I happened to have at my house. I have since learned that my favorite thing to use as a Notebook is a 9x6in sketch diary because I often paste in postcards, ads, or newspaper articles and I don't like doing that on lined paper (who can explain it?) I also didn't want it to be so big that it was inconvenient to carry around.

One day, post WN, I was digging through an old box from high school and my freshman year of college. I found what could only be described as a Writer's Notebook. At the time of its use, I thought of it as a scrapbook but as I sifted through it then I realized it was a rough draft of what I would later learn to cultivate as a Writer's Notebook. Looking through it now I find the following:

-quotes from books, songs and movies I liked
-pictures of cute actors
-poetry (when I used to write poetry)
-lsu tigers stickers
-my favorite poems
-pictures of animals
-poem a friend wrote for me
-poetry written between my grandmother and uncle when he was in prison (some things are hard to say right out)
-ads and comics I liked
-concert tickets
-brilliant insights from my own brain (ha!)

Eventually the internet became what it is and much of what I was reading was online. The articles I found interesting were online. Funny videos would spark random thoughts. Discussion boards would have something interesting going on. These targets of my observation weren't exactly easy to put into a Writer's Notebook. And I was sometimes reading these thingums called blogs.


I started a blog as a digital Writer's Notebook. For many months the only person who knew I was doing this was Dr Musacha. It was my own place to store random thoughts and link to things online that I found interesting. It was an easy place to hold videos and pics. I still kept (and keep) a Writer's Notebook but this blog served as its digital extension. Eventually I shared its web address with some of my friends who I discuss writing with. Then with some friends that I like to talk about books with and then just to some friends who are mildly curious as to what my brain can vomit up from time to time. Then, of course, there is the wonderful blogging community out there with whom one can become engaged on various topics. In one very important way this digital version is not like my paper version: it is public. I find that I always have in the back of my mind that what goes onto the internet, no matter how unimportant, is out there and so in the public domain. The digital portion of my Writer's Notebook is no longer strictly a Writer's Notebook but it has connected me to many other people who, like me, like to write. I find it a very satisfactory evolution of my Writer's Notebook and my writing life.

And so I find myself here in this place on the internet, still engaged in a writing life, in large part because of the encouragement and mentoring of Dr. Betsy Ervin. I went on to take her Essay Writing class the next semester (wherein I got to show off my Writer's Notebook and talk about how much I loved it as a tool) and get to know her a bit more. I would consider our relationship to have been mostly professional with a little bit of personal. I remember visiting her house just after her daughter was born and keeping in touch even when I wasn't in one of her classes - and even a bit after I graduated. I ran into her once by chance when I was back in Wilmington for a visit but by then we were not much in touch any longer. I can only assume she was serving as an excellent mentor for a new crop of students. I hope she knew what a positive effect she had on my life. I know I am not the only one to remember, with respect and gratitude, her generous and open manner as a teacher.

Thus endeth my 500th post, in memory and appreciation of Dr. Betsy Ervin