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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: Editing the Theosis Chapter 
26th-Nov-2007 02:37 am
Get it right.
Editing is a slower process than the raw writing, it seems. I've been going through all the notes I've gotten from friends for a few days now, reworking parts of the chapter. It is reassuring, I suppose, that there seems to be a consensus on those parts that need to be re-worked. Usually it's the complexity of my sentence structures that is the enemy. I seem to think – and express myself – in ideas that are the integrated sum of a variety of points. This habit or skill may help me as an historian – it's all about making connections, after all – but in communication this is not so helpful. So it seems counter-intuitive to me to try to break up my ideas into a series of smaller sentences that possess greater clarity, even if they flow well, one to the other. It doesn't feel, at first, like the connected idea I'm trying to express.

Immediate goal for the future? Try to learn to think in paragraphs, and not sentences that try to express a paragraph's variety of thoughts. Finding Emily's note that read "Mike – have you ever stopped to read your sentences aloud? And not died of asphyxiation?" was particularly inspiring. :-) Of course I read them aloud: but since I know where the emphasis goes on the first try, theirs becomes a glorious rhetorical complexity!

One more wonderful thing about having a 24" screen: not having to switch back and forth from one Word document to another: I've got my own text on the right and four annotated versions from friends on the left, so that I can see and compare all their criticisms and suggestions at once while working on my own draft. A small, not-terribly-technical benefit, perhaps, but a welcome one.
26th-Nov-2007 01:02 pm (UTC)
Editing is a slower process than the raw writing, it seems.

Tell me about it.

Finding Emily's note that read "Mike – have you ever stopped to read your sentences aloud? And not died of asphyxiation?" was particularly inspiring.

Good thing I kept it in, against better judgment! (Which I did largely because I too am a writer of long sentences)

Of course I read them aloud

And suddenly, still blinking sleep from my eyes as I read this, I realize that you have a God-given gift. Clearly your nose allows you more air to prevent Death By Runaway Mouth.
26th-Nov-2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
Clearly your nose allows you more air to prevent Death By Runaway Mouth.

I cannot believe you had the guts to say that to me! Even better than the original line: you just totally made my day!

26th-Nov-2007 08:16 pm (UTC)
*laughs, scares a poet in the corner*

26th-Nov-2007 08:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, sure: you know that whole Irish/Celtic thing of "verbal abuse as affection?" I've learned that I have to explain that to my students each semester up front, along with the grading scale, because I'll inevitably start letting cultural stuff like that slip as I get more comfortable with them. I found out teaching high school that that just does not compute with students from some backgrounds. *cough*German*cough* So those folks thought I was just being mean, while the Irish or the Black students just got it and entered into the play with me.

Getting students comfortable enough with me to toss zingers of their own back at me was great fun, though. I think my all-time favourite was when I was teaching in a wheelchair for a semester after a hip surgery I'd had, and I had to use crutches to move out in public. I ran into one of my students, what we called a "Tanner," if you know the type, out on a date at my favourite restaurant in South Bend. She looked over at me maneuvering on my crutches and just said, "Hey there, Hopalong." I still haven't stopped smiling at that one....
26th-Nov-2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, sure: you know that whole Irish/Celtic thing of "verbal abuse as affection?"

Know it? I was raised in it, for better or for worse.* (Hell, I'm being educated in that milieu still -- it's the reason I get on so well with G when hardly anyone else does)

And I know you did not intentionally create a parallel between me and your students... :)

*Recall that I am a product of a perfect storm: Irish met German (German won out for a few generations, but it's on the wane), then met Creole/Southern/French and went kaboom.
26th-Nov-2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
See? Now that's an interesting mix! One of the things I like about Novak family gatherings or reunions is that the family has gotten so diverse: so the Czech Jewish/Polish Novak line I'm in, and then Black, Asian, and Middle-Eastern wings. The only thing we really lack is a Latino branch.

Yeah, communicating that culture of witty teasing and barbs can be difficult to the outsider. There's a line of demarcation that's difficult to describe between "abuse-as-humour" and actual "abuse." Maybe you can suggest that George give a pre-emptive cultural primer in the style as I've learned to do. That's really unfortunate if people are really losing out on his gifts for misunderstanding something like that. Everyone "in" on the culture or style would react with utter horror if you actually said something intended to be hurtful.

That was another line of misunderstanding with Jen in the spring: she would only define such things as abusive, with the implication that I (or my culture) was simply rationalizing my behaviour if I said otherwise. So it turned into another one of those "self-fulfilling prophecy"-type situations, like with her pronouncement that we couldn't be friends for being too different: any teasing of this sort was just cruelty. While I certainly had to consider her point, it was occasionally hard to be patient with such a blanket condemnation.
26th-Nov-2007 09:21 pm (UTC)
Maybe you can suggest that George give a pre-emptive cultural primer in the style as I've learned to do.

Well, G never teases anyone but me and occasionally Crystal, and he's far from abusive -- really, right now he's at the point of over-formality and care with his students. In fact, I get antsy with him when he's overly polite, because it means he's on "best behavior". (Which is perhaps why I'm getting along better with D, who I can tease and be teased by, very gently) Which isn't to say his teasing isn't occasionally over the line, as you may recall from when I was about to kill him in Milwaukee.

And no one is really losing out on him, just interacting with him in a different way. As I was saying to Tim this morning, not every relationship needs to be constructed with equal closeness/personal disclosure/what have ye. And while I process unendingly with some of my dearest, that is by no means required or even appropriate for everyone.

At any rate. Teasing runs the gamut, but my personal belief is it's better for the thin-skinned person to be treated a little gently. My mother is the thin-skinned one in our family (and my sister and I are also on occasion), and while she (we) could lighten up a little, it doesn't help to be told to "just lighten up" constantly. Which isn't to say Jen wasn't off-base in a broader sense, but.
26th-Nov-2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
Quite. The whole rule about "not eating meat offered to idols in front of those of weak conscience" seems to apply to the "thin-skinned" situation. No, "just lighten up" is very much a case-specific response, to be used with discernment. In my case, it was more important for love's sake for me to try to accommodate her conscience and her sensitivity in that respect.

The point you made with Tim is an interesting one. I think I realized it for the first time as an undergraduate, and was struck by it because it does seem to be almost counter-intuitive with our desire to increase intimacy in most cases. But just on a logistical level, it's not possible, much less in the interpersonal realm of mixing-and-matching people's personalities.
27th-Nov-2007 04:49 am (UTC)
Hm. Just tripped across a Jen-note in some material I was reviewing for tomorrow's class, where I had tucked this at the end of April when I lost taught this material. I had to blink in remembrance of the warmth of it all, a few weeks before her emotions just seemed to turn off in May. That made me think of my choice of example above, which I sort of regret now, as sounding snippy in the way of that conversation the other month. I really needed to vent, then, with that lack of forgiveness I said was sort of eating at me for what hit me in July as a harsh denial or betrayal of friendship or kindness.

That venting itself seemed to be what I needed at the time. Now when she pops into mind I more often just find myself missing my good friend, and not remembering the bad stuff so up front. Rather, I see the pleasure she got out of teaching something successfully, or making her laugh, or getting her to relax when she was running at top speed and seeing her look of realizing that was what she needed. I'm remembering her constant generosity, or the look of satisfaction on her face when she ate her weekly cheeseburger, as though she had done something absolutely sneaky in smuggling that into her healthy diet. As you said, all that makes its way back in such situations.

So in this case, yes, she was rather sweeping in her assessment of such things, but I have learned over the years that I have to watch myself about being self-indulgent with my own sense of humour. And the chance to do that out of respect for another person is a great gift. So, anyway, I could have chosen a better example.
26th-Nov-2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
By the way, I loved the image this put in my head: there was an old Monty Python's Flying Circus episode that had a sketch in it about a poet needing repair or somesuch – that every house had a poet installed in some closet, like a furnace or water-heater, and that it occasionally needed repair. And so, you and your "poet in the corner"....
26th-Nov-2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
This one... meh, nice enough but her work is too... anyhoo.

I prefer when my fiction writers are in the corner, really.
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