I have been thinking about them, and about the conventional wisdom that they ought be avoided. Also, I’m reading 2666, which features many contemplative characters contemplating contemplatively. In that text, those pesky thought verbs (wonder, imagine, consider, and their ilk) do useful work in that they reinforce characters’ feelings of dissociation. Given that one of the most pressing phenomena visible in this historic moment, at least in the US, is the pervasive mental healthcare industry, that language of distance — of standing outside yourself, observing, often in horror — seems far too useful to write off wholesale. As usual with any blanket writing advice, I remain skeptical. Embodied language works in a similar way — there are completely valid thematic reasons not to inhabit a character’s physicality. Same goes for active verbs, my old hobbyhorse: passivity is useful when you have a static character becoming aware of their stasis, for example. None of this is revelatory; I post it as a reminder to self, since many of these bits of advice parrot back back to me when I’m in the throes of revision, and too often that parroting is unhelpful. When confronted with a writing truism, first look askance. <–looks askance at previous sentence.
Well, that was a long radio silence for no good reason. School’s out for summer; I have insane amounts of time on my hands. But then, I’ve also been filling it with useful things, and it’s kept me distracted from blogging much.
Biggest news (and this should tell you the tiny scope of my life at moment) is that I’m in the throes of redesigning my composition course around utopia/dystopia, and it is just about the most fun you can have while making extra work for yourself for no reason. I’ll be teaching Tiptree, LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Valente, Brockmeier, Bartheleme, and Borges with crit/commentary from Haraway, Atwood, Larbalestier, Joel Garreau, Sherryl Vint, and Patricia Metzel. The summer syllabus is abbreviated, so now I’m trying to cut chapters down into bite-sized readings, but it’s been so, so lovely to immerse myself in short fiction and theory. I have no idea what the students will make of it, and it’s always a rocky entry the first time teaching a new syllabus, but the joy of a summer class is that I rip the BandAid off in two months of teaching, rather than winding up stuck with a syllabus that doesn’t work for a full semester. And then I can refurbish it and polish it up all bright and shiny for the fall.
This is my third major 161 syllabus overhaul since I’ve been at UIC, and I think I just love ze pain or something, because last time I taught it (the gender and consumer culture version), my students produced phenomenal papers and I got great evals. There’s definitely a gender component to the spec class; it’s the mode of criticism I know best, so it’s a teachable go-to when I need a frame for a course. But I’m definitely getting in other themes: race, class, gamer culture, body alterations, etc. I haven’t written sociological SF in too long; I think teaching this class is going to get me back in the groove. Suffice to say, I am excited. Class prep is such a timesink, though. I spent four hours on campus yesterday just making pdf’s. Labor of love, baby.
And…I’m writing fiction again? Daily? Have revised (many) things this week, sent out a few subs (there was a nearly two-month-long window wherein I had nothing in the mail at all, I’m sad to say), and I’m even scribbling new stuffs (lines, concepts, shapes of things mostly…I’ll know I’m back in the game when I generate something worth finishing). I’m trying to pay more attention to my process, since Exams Have Changed Everything. I’m not sure how I write now, or how I revise, or what the hell my process is going to look like. I know iterative writing’s been helpful, and I’m loving the handwrite-then-type process for generating new drafts. I’m back running again, too, damn the feet—did three miles yesterday, start-and-stop but still. I’ll take it. I finished drafting the review I owed, but am now held up waiting for various emails to come through. I’ll announce it if it gets picked up, o’course. Hell, I’ve even started drafting my prospectus, because I adore my topic. What is wrong with me?
Well, Jim is out of town again, and I leave for AZ in a week. I did the math: since March, we’ve been apart two entire effing months. It’s making it painfully difficult to build a routine together with so much travel disruption. Eh, it’s giving me zero excuse to do anything but work, though, and so I’m getting lots done. Unfair tradeoff, but what else can you do?
Bumble bumble bumble. I suppose I should go fritter some time writing, reading, exercising (it’s 87 out, eek!), doing dishes, making some phone calls…have I mentioned how much I love the summer?