Archive for December, 2007

Food, Sex

Here is the article on food writing.  I hope Martha’s people don’t read it or I’m in trouble.

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Last year, when I had my other blog, I wrote a post about an epic training ride I did with some guys on my team one freezing cold day in February.  I described the ride and the way we all teased each other to make the ride easier and keep us entertained for four plus hours in the saddle.  Some anonymous commenter found my description of the ride offensive, and ripped me for being so mean and nasty.

About thirteen years ago or so, a friend was trying to set me up with a friend of hers.  We had not met, but we passed a few pleasant e-mails.  In one, I mentioned I was going to Louisiana at Mardi Gras for a conference, and she replied that she would love to go to Louisiana but she was broke.  I then jokingly replied that we could fold her up in my garment bag and smuggle her aboard the plane so she could go with me for free.  She felt that my reference to folding her into my garment bag was a nasty slur on her being flat-chested, and she proceeded, in approximately 1000 well-chosen but angry words, to let me know that my insulting her lack of endowments was not at all appreciated, and that I didn’t really know anything about her–had never even met her, in fact–and therefore should not feel free to insult the size of her breasts.  I apologized, explaining my entirely innocent, non-breast-referencing joke, but she never e-mailed me again.

I have tried recently to write some humorous posts about various things, but manage to muck things up as usual.  I guess I don’t do humor well.  So, if I’ve said anything recently that offended anyone, I do apologize because it was inadvertent.  I’m going to drop the bad humor thing and go read my books for a while.  Perhaps I’ll be back later.

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Bloglily tagged several people to explain how they plan, especially how they plan their writing lives.  I can make this very simple:  Plan?  I need a plan?  Who said anything about a plan?

For a while when I was little, my mom worked while my dad was trying to go to school, so my dad also took over many of the household duties.  I remember him making up the weekly plan on the calendar that hung in the kitchen.  It was fairly simple, but even so, all I remember is the meal planning.  He planned out every meal at the beginning of the week and printed the menu on the calendar.

It was probably part of his officer training, because my dad loved plans and planning.  He made charts and graphs and had separate notebooks with color-coded tabs and plastic inserts and different colors of ink and on and on.  He made little organizational things on 3×5 cards (and no one on god’s green earth has ever loved a 3×5 card quite as much as my dad did), laminated them, and pinned them to his cork board.  I think my dad was always a little sad that he did not have to plan a major invasion of a country involving fifteen different military powers, marine forces, a navy, and artillery.

Here’s the thing, though: he liked the planning much better than the execution.  That nifty menu calendar?  We followed it for maybe two weeks, while he continued to make the plans for another two before he tossed it out in frustrated depression.

So, with that model, I don’t trust plans.  I think plans are the tools of the devil.  As a teacher, I should be very good at plans, but, luckily for me, as a college teacher, I do not need to hand in lesson plans to anyone.  Instead, I have my syllabus, which lists everything we are going to read but allows me a lot of space for contingencies.  The world revolves around contingencies.  Things might happen.  Things might not.  You have to be flexible, ready to roll in a different direction at a moment’s notice, and I, winging it without a plan, can do just that.

Take today.  In my American Literature class, we are finishing up the semester with Emily Dickinson.  Instead of assigning specific poems, I told my students to read through most if not all of the poems in the anthology and choose some that they wanted to talk about.  Because of this, I had to be ready to talk about anything and everything.  I prefer to work it that way, though, where I can rely on my background training to get me through the class without too many crashes.  And the class went great–one of the best in the semester, in fact.

My writing follows much the same path.  i know where it is going, and I may even go so far as to make a little list of all of the things I want my writing to accomplish.  If it’s an academic article, I’ll list the main points I want to cover or the salient points of my argument.  I call this an “outline,” though my outline is to real outlines what a one sentence synopsis is to an entire novel.  Maybe I would be a better writer (and certainly a more disciplined one) if I wrote from a more detailed plan.  But I just can’t do it.

I know I promised the 7 weird things meme, but for some reason, I’m getting stuck.  At one moment everything about me seems completely weird but in the next moment it all seems completely bland and boring.  I’ll keep thinking about it and post it soon, though.

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