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Eight months of daily musings

It’s the last day of the month. On the last day of each month, I do my best to reflect back on what I’ve written and learned about writing in the past month. In the first few months, I found myself developing or refining my style [1]. Yet it is not clear that the style or the quality of my writing has changed significantly after those first few months [2]. My prose remains workmanlike. I continue to release musings that need more editing [3]. I continue to make pointless jokes throughout each musing [4].

So, what has happened in this past month? About a week ago, I decided to stop titling these essay of the day, at least when I post them to Twitter or Facebook. I called the series musings at the beginning for a reason, and I’m going back to that term. I’m not sure whether I’ll revise the indices to say Musing rather than Essay, but the possibility exists [5].

I did hit one of my biggest sets of struggles this semester. First, I didn’t have access to the Internet and was working too hard on other things, so I didn’t get essays developed to their normal state for a few days and ended up posting five essays at once. The skip a day or two and then make it up pattern happened in the first round of forty or so essays and ended up foreshadowing the summer-long stoppage. I’d prefer not to stop.

Given that preference, I was unhappy to find that I had writer’s block for a few days when I returned [6]. I pressed through it, because I’ve committed to writing something and because any writing is better than no writing. But I’m still not sure that it’s gone. I had trouble writing the essay on international CS majors, which is strange given how much I appreciate those students. I’m finding it a bit harder to come up with topics that are of general interest. As I look back over the month, I see that I even had writer’s block earlier in the month. That is certainly not a good sign.

I worry that in writing these musings, I am increasingly focusing inward, rather than outward. I’d like to find more occasions in which I naturally write things that will be of use to prospective students, or current students, or whoever [7]. So maybe my writing has changed in that I have ended up writing introspectively [8]. I don’t think I like the change.

Perhaps I worry too much. I see that I wrote a few pieces that I consider useful, such as the commentary on tipping hotel housekeeping and the draft SEPC handbook [11]. I wrote about a strange teaching practice that it sounds like some folks may adapt. I even provided helpful guidance for employment seekers

I’ve also started to play with writing tools. I process most of these musings [12] through Grammarly and the Hemingway Editor [14]. I tried Grammarly premium and gave up on it because it gave incorrect advice, and I don’t want to pay that much for incorrect advice [17]. Nonetheless, because I use these tools, I end up looking at my writing more closely. At times, I wonder whether I might be equally well served by a tool that highlights random sentences and asks, Are you sure you’ve said this as well as you can? In any case, I wonder if anyone notices that I have edited these essays more carefully than before? I don’t.

I have also been writing a number of pieces that I am not comfortable posting. During break, I wrote: a recommendation letter or two, which I definitely should not post; two position proposals, which would also be inappropriate to post; an explanatory document for a proposal before the Grinnell faculty, which should stay within the faculty; a draft of an external review, which I certainly should not post; some paper and scholarship reviews, which are confidential; and a response to the Dean’s latest questions on the research opportunities for all initiative, which I posted. I also wrote a bunch [18] of email messages.

I did not achieve much of the writing I intended for this series. I had expected to write more profiles. I did not write them. I had expected to write more essays on C and Unix. I wrote a few, but not many. So, while I might benefit from making a plan on what kinds of writing to work on in the coming month, the odds are high that I would fail to achieve that plan. I could try a new genre, such as book reviews. I could try poetry [19]. I had considered fiction, but that’s more appropriate for NaNoWriMo [20].

Maybe I’ll go back to ranting about assorted things. That seems like an appropriate approach for a curmudgeon like me who is old, fat, tired, and grumpy. I know that a reasonably large subset of my readers enjoys those rants. But I’m not sure that it sets a good example for my readers.

We’ll see. Check back with me in a month [21].

[1] Yes, endnotes are part of the style.

[2] Some of my readers may wish to dispute that claim.

[3] All of my writing almost certainly needs more editing.

[4] Yes, I realize that most of you couldn’t tell.

[5] I am not sure how I feel about revisionist history.

[6] Or, as I phrased it, my muse seemed to have disappeared for spring break.

[7] I do realize that the C and Linux writings can serve a useful purpose. But I’d like to go beyond those.

[8] Yes, I realize that my end-of-month musings are always introspective. I also realize that a fraction of my musings are also introspective [9]. I worry that the fraction has been increasing.

[9] Grammarly suggests that I should write fraction … is rather than fraction … are. But the fraction still represents multiple items. The answer may appear in CMOS [10]. I should keep a copy at home.

[10] The Chicago Manual of Style, not a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor.

[11] I should discuss that draft handbook with the SEPC when they return.

[12] I’m working hard to maintain the old/new terminology.

[14] The Hemingway editor told me that this musing had 39 adverbs when I first submitted it and that I should aim for twelve [15]. But it counts Grammarly as an adverb, so the count is high. Oh well, at least I only used the passive voice once, and that is in the disclaimer that Sam’s Assorted Musings / Reflections: Eight months of daily musings by Samuel A. Rebelsky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [16].

[15] By the time I decided that I was done editing, I was down to thirty adverbs and the Hemingway editor generously told me that I should aim for thirteen. Of course, I added this endnote, which also added another adverb.

[16] Whoops! Now I have used the passive voice twice.

[17] I plan to write a separate essay on Grammarly.

[18] Hmmm … What’s the appropriate collective for email messages? I used bunch, but that’s usually associated with bananas. I could write a lot of email messages, but that’s not all that interesting. I suppose flurry would work, since I often sent a lot at once. But I sent messages over multiple days, so perhaps I should use flurries. If I used profanity, I suppose I could say a load of email messages, or a variant thereof. I’ll consider using flurries in the future.

[19] No.

[20] NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It is an opportunity for large numbers of people to write long pieces that very few people will read.

[21] Or, preferably, read along each day and form your own opinion.

Version 1.0 of 2017-03-31.