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Another month of daily musings (#1004)

Topics/tags: End-of-month musings, long, end-notable

We have reached the end of another month and, as is my wont [1], I’m using the last day of the month to look back on the past month and reflect on the musings. I realize that I’ve just written another type of summative musing in my comments on achieving 1000 musings, essays, and rants. Nonetheless, the end-of-month musings tend to have a different tone than that musing; I might consider the distribution of topics, things I’ve learned about my writing, simple data, and similar issues.

I write these end-of-month musings for myself. Nonetheless, some others seem to find them worth reading [2]. Hence, I continue to write them. I also find them a useful place to record thoughts throughout the month. Sometimes it’s a challenge to turn those thoughts into readable text. Sometimes, I don’t try all that hard.

On my writing

One thing I noticed this month is that I’m writing too many too long musings. Many things contributed to their length. My first musing of the month, on my plans for my next Tutorial included a lot of quoted material that added to its length. Another, my post-preregistration reflections for spring semester, required me to write about a bunch of data. I’m not sure that I wrote all that much meaningful, but it took a lot of time and resulted in a lot of text. I’m reminded of the comment that If you’re not all that interested in what you are writing, your reader won’t be, either. Of course, I’m also reminded of the comment that If I had more time, it would have been shorter [3].

Later in the month, I wrote a third very-long musing, this time on staff governance. As I noted in one of the too-many postscripts to the last musing, I doubt that I’ll have too many lazy Sunday afternoons in which I can write musings that are 4000-5000 words long. And I probably shouldn’t spend so much time musing when I have so much else to do. I also wonder whether I need a TL;DR section or to break the larger musings up into shorter musings. Even after posting the musing on staff governance, I thought about posting a series of short musings excerpted from that musing. But I didn’t have time, and I have too much more to muse about. If I’m desperate for a topic at some point or if I decide that it’s important to revisit some of those subtopics, I’ll extract and update.

It seems like this musing has also gotten fairly long [4]. Are all my end-of-month musings long? [5]

Once again, I seem to have reached a steady state in the structure and quality of my writing. I still write really and clearly too much, at least according to Grammarly. I also frequently splice commas before or and and; I’m not sure why.

I’ve been through two weeks of The Craft of Creative Nonfiction, which means that I will have the opportunity to think more about how I write and, I hope, to improve. I’ve already noted that the structure of my musings is fairly consistent and started to consider ways to break that structure. You can expect to see me experiment a bit more with structure, as I did in the piece on Prince Spaghetti Day. Professor Savarese has also noted that I should use a broader variety of sentence structures [7]. I’ve already placed an order for The Art of Styling Sentences. Over time, I may even be able to achieve the precision of and care with language that I see in so many of the pieces we’ve read. What does Professor Savarese call that? Perhaps writerly prose. A few more years, and I’ll be on my way.

On posting frequency

The last few months of 2019 were not my most consistent. I had gaps. I had big gaps. I also had a few days in which I posted multiple times. In January, I managed to post every day. Or at least I believe I managed to post every day, which is essentially the same.

I recall one or two days in which I posted more than one musing. If I recall correctly, the primary reason was one of timeliness. For example, I posted a week in review and [my notes on the first reading for Craft of Creative Nonfiction] on the same day because I wanted to post the review soon after writing it and I wanted to post my notes before class. The following week, I just decided to skip the public posting of my week in review, since it would have come out the same day as musing 1000.

On days in which I write an extra musing, I save the musing for another day [10] rather than posting multiple musings. In the past, when I had an idea for a short musing, I’d put a few notes in my sketchbook and leave it at that. Now, I feel much more comfortable writing a full draft. But I almost always edit the finished post before posting it on another date, so it almost certainly takes more time. Is that the best idea? It would be if it led to better writing, but I don’t see evidence of that.

I admit that I did have one day in which I considered posting four separate musings related to donating to Grinnell, some general comments on donating to Grinnell, additional followup notes on the Honor Roll of Giving, a letter to concerned alums regarding project ignite, and a fantasy about donations in my name. In the end, sense prevailed and I kept myself in check. I posted the first three on separate days. I never did get to posting the last one; I’m not even sure whether or not I finished it. Perhaps you’ll see it next month.

Reaching one thousand musings

As I mentioned in the introduction above, I reached my one-thousandth post this month. In the prelude to the one-thousandth post, I had joked about emphasizing that I now had four digits in the number for each musing. If I were into colloquialisms, I would write the jokes on me; it turns out that it seems unnatural to type four digits. I’ve been typing three digits for so long, the forth just seems wrong. And all those zeros [11]!

Although I knew that number 1000 was arriving, I didn’t have nearly enough time to reflect in preparation for the occasion or to record those reflections. For example, while I did write about the compulsion to write every day, I failed to include an anecdote about my experience writing daily in high school. I’d thought about it at some point but didn’t write the thoughts down, which meant that I didn’t recall it when the time to write arrived. What did I want to say? Something like the following.

In 11th grade English, the teacher asked us to write a daily journal so that we’d get in the habit of writing. She didn’t read what we wrote; that was personal. But she’d look at the page and initial to make sure that we were writing something. A few of my friends and I tried to find ways around the system. I was often successful at getting her to sign my notes from history class. When she realized what was happening, I started to take my notes in ways that made them look like poems. That got me through another month or so.

Now that I teach, I know that I would have learned better if I’d taken the assignment seriously. I’m glad that I don’t have myself as a student.

There is, of course, much more that I failed to include. But my life would be incomplete if I did not record that anecdote somewhere.

I got surprisingly few comments, or even likes, on musing 1000. But it was nice to have a valued colleague raise the anniversary in a hallway conversation, and I particularly appreciated a comment from one longtime reader.

Did it occur to you that maybe I keep reading and commenting because your writing is entertaining and informative? And that you represent Grinnell College at its best?

Nope. That never occurred to me. Nonetheless, I’m glad to be both entertaining and informative. I’m not sure that Grinnell would have chosen me to represent it, but I’m glad that no one seems to object.

A missed opportunity

The day after I posted my thousandth musing, a colleague at a meeting with me said something like,

I was at the Faculty/Staff Friday last week. I asked why you were helping run the session, given that you’re on leave. Two people at my table said He’s written at least two ramblings about it.

Ramblings. I like that. It’s a bit insulting. But it’s true.

If I’d heard that before I posted musing 1000, I could have made the decision to change the name of the pieces I write from musings to ramblings and called musing 1000 my last musing. That would have been fun, particularly since I’d joked about it in the previous musing.

Once I did that, I could have renamed the collection from SamR’s Assorted Musings and Rants to Rebelsky Rambles and Rants. I like the alliteration. Perhaps I could have done Rebelsky Regularly Rambles and Rants or Rebelsky Repeatedly Rambles and Rants or Rebelsky Randomly Rambles and Rants or, just because that’s not enough Rs, Rebelsky Regularly, Repeatedly, and Randomly Rambles and Rants. What else? Because Grammarly hates it when I use really. I’d almost certainly have to call it Rebelsky Regularly, Repeatedly, and Randomly Really Rambles and Rants.

Come to think of it, perhaps it’s good that I didn’t hear it earlier.

I’ll stick with the current title, partially because I could not help but go overboard with a repeated R title, particularly because I appreciate that the various spelling and grammar checkers keep telling me to convert a musing to amusing. They won’t tell me to convert a rambling to arambling.

Follow-ups to other individual musings

No one commented on my musing on staff governance. I wonder why.

I got very few comments on my musing on Tutorial topics. Given the number I’d previously received on [Plans], I found that somewhat surprising. I guess [Plans] is just a better social media site. I suppose I should consider returning [12].

I have some additional comments planned about elections for the chair of the faculty. However, I think those should wait at least until I see the next slate [16], and perhaps even until after the elections are complete.

Broader issues

I feel like my musings have been having indirect impacts, although not always ones that I intended. I posted about GrinCam. GrinCam went away. I mentioned the online list of courses. Suddenly it required a password to access the list of courses. I like to pretend that I’ve also had some more positive (and perhaps intentional) indirect impacts, like the time I suggested we offer someone a tenure-line position, and we did. But these indirect impacts are strange.

Behind the scenes

I had planned to work on the software I use to generate and maintain musings this month. I did a little work, but not much. Perhaps I’ll get more done next month.


This portion of the end-of-month musings is likely the least interesting to others, but it’s also a way for me to think about some characteristics of how I work. Seeing changes in numbers does something for me, although I can’t always say what.

The last musing of 2019 was musing 972. This musing is musing 1004. I posted thirty-two musings this month. Given that one day was a duplicate, I seem to have achieved my goal of posting daily, or I posted two on multiple days and forgot about it.

I use my sketchbook to keep track of prospective musing topics. As I mentioned at the end of last month, I set aside my sketchbook from last year and started fresh, so these are all issues that came to mind since the start of the year [17].

  • I have seven (7) musings that I’ve marked as written, need minor revisions. Three (3) of those were in the same section last month. I almost lost one of them; it was only in comparing them to last month’s that I realized that I had not posted one, but had also failed to copy it over to the new sketchbook.
  • I have another four (4) musings that I’ve marked as written, need major revisions.
    • One is on my nine-month quest to get a correction made to the Faculty Handbook. I’m not sure if I’ll ever post that one.
    • One is about my frustrations dealing with older gift cards from the College bookstore. I wrote it in the midst of fury and, once I calmed down, felt that large sections needed to be excised.
    • One is about the policies on the number of credits one can take in music ensembles and lessons. After writing the first draft, I spent a lot of time in the archives and talking to people. In the end, I realized that some of what I thought was wrong. If I ever do post it, I may call it Learning About Lessons.
    • One is about a long-term art project that I hope to undertake someday. I wrote it in early fall. I’m not sure why I haven’t finished it yet.
  • I have forty-one (41) planned musings that I’ve marked as Short. Some have appeared in prior sketchbooks, but most came up in a new context this month. I see that there are forty-three (43) in the most recent sketchbook.
  • I have fourteen (14) planned musings that I’ve marked as Long. It will take me a long time to write them.
  • I have two (2) planned musings about Grinnellians. Right now, the list includes only Rachel Rose ’01 and Kate Walker. But this may be a case in which I’ll look back to prior sketchbooks. If you want to see either of those musings, or a musing about another Grinnellian, let me know. I may not follow your suggestion, but suggestions do help me move forward.
  • I have two (2) topics that I started but probably won’t finish. One is about a poor experience on one of the College Parents newsgroups I’m on. Another is about my frustrations at the open forum for faculty on the presidential search. In the former case, I don’t think it’s appropriate to share some of those issues on a public forum. In the latter, many of my concerns are being addressed. But I do wish I’d seen some pre-tenure faculty at the open forum. Maybe I will post, but eliminating some of the complaints.
  • I have three (3) topics that I might extract from the longer piece on staff governance.

Whoops. That’s enough to write about to carry me through another two months of musing. It’s hard to believe that when I started musing, I only had a list of thirty or so potential topics.

Looking ahead

I don’t have a lot of particular plans for the coming month. I hope to finish a long rant that I’ve been working on for some time. I hope to experiment a bit with my writing in an attempt to improve. I expect to post some work from The Craft of Creative Nonfiction. I can’t recall whether or not we’re supposed to do rewrites, but I’ll likely post at least four times for each thing I write: The assignment I develop [18], the original version, my thoughts on the workshopping of my piece [19], and a revised version. My first piece, about place or travel, is due February 11. My second piece, a cultural critique, is due April 5. My third piece, of a sub-genre of my choice, is due April 28. Or maybe I won’t post anything at all; that’s among the things I need to discuss with Prof. Savarese. I should also send him the manuscript for my Great American Novel [20]

Postscript: You may have noted that I have referred to one of my colleagues as both Ralph and Prof. Savarese. When I am writing about him in the context of the class, I try to use Prof. Savarese. When I am writing about him in the context of our relationship as colleagues, I tend to use Ralph.

[1] No, that’s not the same as won’t.

[2] I guess that’s true of most of my musings and rants.

[3] Is that a real comment? I feel like I’ve heard something similar in the past.

[4] A typical musing is about one-thousand words. I call musings with less than five-hundred words short and more than two- or three-thousand words long. This one is a bit over three-thousand words.

[5] Apparently not. The longest one before this one was just under three-thousand words, and most are between one-thousand and two-thousand words. I should remember that concision is a virtue [6].

[6] concision is also better than conciseness, which ain’t so nice.

[7] More precisely, Sam, you need to take my Tutorial so that you can learn to use more than two sentence structures. [8,9]

[8] Dear Grammarly, I do mean two sentence structures, not two-sentence structures. I suppose I could hyphenate it as two sentence-structures, but that hyphen would be unnecessary.

[9] I would prefer, Sam, you should use The Art of Styling Sentences in your Tutorial so that you can learn to use more than two sentence structures. After all, I learn best by teaching. Or perhaps, Those who can’t do, teach.

[10] Not necessarily a rainy day.

[11] Why I do want to type zeroes instead of zeros? Oh well, potatos, potatoes, as they say.

[12] I have taken tentative steps back onto [Plans]. I’m limiting myself to fifteen minutes each day [14].

[14] For those of you who don’t know about [Plans], I’ll muse about it someday [15].

[15] I say that now, but I put in a placeholder for a musing about [Plans] in December 2016.

[16] Down to twenty-six names, which seem to include nine people on or nearly on SFS. You’d think seventeen people would make a pretty good set of candidates, but about half have not been on any of the major committees (Council, Personnel) and most of the other half are either Center directors, former Faculty Chairs, or the equivalent. The folks I’ve talked to on the list also don’t seem particularly interested in serving. Maybe that’s good. What’s more important is that they are willing to serve. That’s the category I fall into: Not particularly interested, but would serve if necessary.

[17] Perhaps also the last few days of last year.

[18] Prof. Savarese asks that we design a writing assignment for ourselves based on one of the pieces we’ve read in a particular genre or sub-genre.

[19] Unless that seems inappropriate to post to a public forum.

[20] Don’t worry, Ralph, that’s a joke. But I was thinking about something like,

Dear Ralphe Savares of the Department of English at Grinel Colllege.

I have written the next Great American Novel. I don’t read much on paper, so I can’t tell you who I write like; I’m mostly inspired by what I hear from Rush Limbaugh and by the funny posts I read on But I heard on the radio that you do work on a novel about a really big fish, and there are fish in my novel. As a fellow Iowan, you are sure to appreciate this work. I look forward to the advice you give me and to hearing from the agent you identify for the work. I hear that seven-figure advances are the norm. I’ll be sure to mention you in that part at the end.

p.s. How big is the fish in your novel? Mine is seven-feet long. With wings. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t caught it, it would have grown into another Van Meter Monster [21].

Nevermind. It’s pretty clear that I’ll fail at comedy.

[21] Thanks, Brian.

Version 1.0 of 2020-01-31.