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Another month (or two) of (nothing that resembles) daily musings (#1035)

Topics/tags: End-of-month musings

It’s the end of March. These past few months have been difficult, February because I was in a self-imposed vacation from using, March because, well, there’s been a pandemic. If I count correctly, I’ve written thirty musings in two months [1]. Hmm … that’s not as bad as I thought. But it’s still fewer than I planned or hoped for.

So what got in the way. For February and early March, I struggled to write on many days. More precisely, I struggled to finish writing. I’d start a piece, become dissatisfied, and stop. Perhaps it’s that I was already writing for Ralph’s class. Perhaps it that I can’t write in multiple styles during the same time period. Perhaps I’m learning to become too critical [2]. But those days were hard. I’ve begun to wonder whether one of my readers was right when they said something like the following [3],

As you attempt to make your writing better, let’s hope you don’t lose what makes your writing good. You have a voice. Keep it.

I wonder how true that is. I know that there was a point that I wasn’t writing because what I was writing felt boring. But I’m not sure if that’s content or structure or style or what. It seems that I’m comfortable returning to something like my normal form for this musing.

In any case, that kind of writers’ block was there in February. For much of March, I’ve suffered from what seems to be a pandemic-related block. It’s not that I’m sick [4]. Rather, it’s that I feel such dread from the pandemic that I can’t easily get myself to write. It’s not that I don’t have topics. I’ve considered writing about tuition refunds, my new hearing aids, video-conferencing options, something about the pieces of paper appearing on downtown businesses (Signs of a pandemic), frustrations with technology, the loss of the S&B Web site [5], experiences with my new laptop, and more. I’ve even started some of those. But I haven’t been able to finish, or even make much progress.

Some people have reacted to distancing with energy, cleaning out their basements, repainting things, writing poem upon poem upon poem. I envy those people. I struggle to do more than, say, sit in the living room binge watching Legends of Tomorrow or streaming live shows by Grinnell alums, former Iowans, or former members of the Soft Boys. Okay, that’s not really true. I’ve been cooking a lot and cleaning up from most of my cooking [6]. I’ve been doing a bit of straightening. And I’ve been dealing with at least half of my email, which seems to take a few hours each day. But I certainly have had less enthusiasm and energy for work than I’ve had in past years, perhaps 10% of what I had as a young faculty member. Bleh.

I feel guilty. My colleagues are working hard to offer distance learning opportunities for our students. And the ones I’ve seen have done a great job. Would I be doing better if someone were depending on me? Almost certainly. That’s what keeps me going when I’m teaching, even if it overwhelms me a bit. But no one suffers if I don’t muse, so it’s harder to get myself to do much of anything.

Will I be able to restart musing? We’ll see. I’d like to be optimistic. But I know that I have a lot to write, other than my musings. I have an external review report to finish. I have a piece of social critique to write for Prof. S. I think I have some administrative stuff to do, too. As I said, we’ll see.

This piece is supposed to be an end of month musing, so I should do more than whine about my inability to write, right? I do see that I missed one major opportunity in the past month: Musing 1010 could have been about the former celebration of the first paycheck, or someone’s birthday, or Ultimate, or something like that. But I’ve mused about that celebration before. It’s not clear I needed to write anything more.

It also wouldn’t be an end-of-month musing without some pointless data. Let’s look at the counts from the 2020 sketchbook.

  • I have five (5) musings that I’ve marked as written, need minor revisions That’s down two from the end of January. I’m too lazy to see if I added any new ones.
  • I have another four (4) musings that I’ve marked as written, need major revisions. Those are the same four that were sitting there at the end of January. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish them.
  • I have three marked as shorter essays that I should excerpt and revise from the insanely long musing on Staff Governance. That list is new.
  • I have fifty-two (52) planned musings that I’ve marked as Short. That’s a whole deck of cards, albeit without jokers. The last time I checked (two months ago, if you weren’t paying attention), I had forty-one.
  • I have nineteen (19) planned musings that I’ve marked as Long. That’s an increase of five.
  • I have three (3) marked as unlikely to post. Do I need to keep those in the sketchbook? I suppose it doesn’t hurt. I’ve added one since the end of January.
  • I’m up to three (3) planned musings about Grinnellians. I also have dozens more in the old sketchbooks. Will I ever have enough energy to do those? Here’s hoping.

I usually end my monthly musings with goals for the next month. I’ll admit that I am not sure what those should be, other than I will try to muse. Maybe, I will try to muse and I will enjoy doing so [7].

See you soon! [8]

Postscript: Concerts I’m attending virtually include Jon Richardson ’10, Danika Holmes (now as part of Danika and the Jeb), Robyn Hitchcock, Saketan Anand ’21, and Ashley MacIsaac. I also hope to see the National Theatre’s weekly shows (One Man, Two Guvnors is this week’s).

[1] Thirty-one, if you count this one.

[2] Should I phrase that as Perhaps I’m becoming too critical.

[3] They said this to me in person, so said is appropriate.

[4] It’s been over two weeks since I flew, and I have no symptoms!

[5] I probably need some permissions before I do that.

[6] It often feels like the cleanup takes much more time than the cooking.

[7] That is, I will enjoy the musing, if not the trying.

[8] One hopes.

Version 1.0 of 2020-03-31 .