Guest Post, David Klose: On Falling In & Out of Love with Writing

I start out wanting to write a Blog Post for Superstition Review. I want to make it funny. Knowledgeable. Relate-able. The reader should laugh and think “I would like to talk with this writer.” All great writing is getting people to think they know you, that they would want to talk with you.

But I have no idea what to write about. I just graduated from college and that is about as boring and overdone a topic as any. I might as well write about golfing, or about the time I played flag football at a local park and discovered I am not the sort of person who should be playing flag football at a local park.

I like to write, but have written nothing of tremendous value. That isn’t fishing for compliments, just speaking objectively. Therefore I can’t offer advice to writers, though I have in the past done this very thing and, to this day, I still feel guilty about it. My writing is not terrible and has made some money in academic contests but I know, what everyone knows, but no one likes to say, that undergrad academic contests aren’t worth anything except the prize money. So I can’t write about being a professional writer, because I am not a professional writer.

I’ve had great experiences through my time as a Blogger/Non-Fiction Editor/Student Editor in Chief at Superstition Review, but others, in ways I cannot top, have written about those very experiences for this very Blog. Others, in ways I have yet to mimic, have taken those experiences and grown because of them. I have been to a writing conference but already have, in a previous post, beaten that horse to death with a very small club. I have been to AWP but spent more time touring the city than touring the Book Fair (shameful, I know, but who could have guessed I was to fall in love with cold beautiful grey Minneapolis?).

Hiking TrailBloggers tell you to write what you know, to relate to your audience through what you know. Good with dogs? Write about dogs. Write about how finishing a short story is similar to teaching a new puppy how to piss outside. It’s all about consistency. Go on a lot of hikes? Write something about the writing process and compare it to hiking a new trail, a harder trail than usual. It’s all about persistence. But my dog still sometimes pees on the living room rug, and the last trail I hiked ended with a whimper, not a bang. I thought maybe I could write about how to make the world’s best macaroni and cheese, but then I remembered, halfway through that ill fated blog post, that the best mac and cheese I ever had was made by a girl named Beth one drunken night six years ago at a friend’s house where we were all drinking wine out of plastic red cups and that recipe, like my connection to Beth, was completely lost after that night.

Telling me to write about what I know has always been a sort of cruel task; because I want to write about what I don’t know, and about that which makes me question my sense of authority. I am reminded of a writing professor who, in a soft rant against ‘trigger warnings’, asked our small workshop circle “Isn’t getting triggered the point?” For me, it goes like this: isn’t admitting you don’t know the point?

Here’s what I don’t know: the value of writing and whether or not I am a writer. I have loved books from a young age and can point to moments in my life that were shaped directly by the works of Salinger (specifically his collection of short stories revolving around the Glass family), to Tolstoy’s War and Peace (one of the first books that genuinely made me want to be a better person) to Dubliners by James Joyce which made me first think about becoming a writer. There are more recent examples, as well. In Matt Bell’s Scrapper there is a scene, where our protagonist finds a stolen boy and the snow is falling overhead, and where I, the reader, was so completely transported into that scene that my heart skipped a beat. But the more I work on Social Media for my job, the more I interact with other readers, with other writers, the more new books and new styles of writing I read, the more the doubt inside me grows. As valuable as stories have been to me, how can we properly value them? There have been blog posts in the past about how writers should be paid, for their stories, their poems, and that magazines shouldn’t expect writers to be content with just getting published. But can we really make that case? I would argue the opposite. That now in this sea of media, where everyone, through so many mediums, has the ability to share their voice, the value in stories is dropping or, at the very least, leveling off in an over saturated market.

This makes me doubt my writing. Do I really just want to be another voice in the market? Is there anything I can say that someone couldn’t say better? I honestly don’t know. That’s why I wanted to write this blog post, because I have no idea. What I see, through Social Media, are countless writers celebrating the fact that they are just writing. And this gets me a little depressed. It isn’t enough that we are just writing. It isn’t enough that we can take photos of our notebooks next to coffee cups and filter the image to look antique and post it. Perhaps this is the result of working in a book store and seeing just how many books get published and how few new writers actually get read. It isn’t enough that you have a story to tell. But now I am giving advice to writers, which is something I already said I wasn’t going to do. So let me stop while I am ahead.

Here’s where the title of my blog comes from: I saw Ira Glass perform at the Mesa Arts Center a few years ago in the show “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host.” It was one of my favorite things I have ever seen and in that performance, Ira Glass quoted a friend who said “when we choose to be with one person for the rest of our lives, we are choosing the person we will spend the rest of our lives falling in and out of love with.”

I think it’s safe to say I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Like any great relationship, falling out of love makes me think of our earliest moments. I remember the first real Creative Writing class I had, where the teacher wrote the words “blue boot” on the whiteboard and asked us, rhetorically, what we were thinking of in that moment. Of course the answer was: a blue boot. Wow, the teacher said quietly, isn’t that amazing? Just by putting two words together, an image was created in our mind. What if, instead of a boot, we did that with a town? Instead a town, a world? Instead of a world, an emotion? What if, through words, we could create the idea of love, of loss, of fear, inside our reader? Wow, all of us students quietly said to ourselves.

This is all to say I still love reading good work. There were two writers I met at Bread Loaf whose writing I loved. One of them had already published a book and I read it in a matter of days. The other one hadn’t published a novel yet, but was certainly almost finished with their first draft. I look up their names every now and then in the usual places. Linkedin. Twitter. Instagram. They aren’t there. They don’t exist on Social Media and this makes me so goddamn happy. Now I can tell myself that, wherever they are, they are focusing on their work. Nothing else. And that one day soon their next book, their next story, their next finished product is going to be put out into the world, and whatever they have created with their words will be stirred within me.

Intern Post, David Klose: Up on the Mountain (Writer’s Conference Series)

If you are considering attending a writing conference sometime in the future, I hope this finds you well. Maybe you have heard of Bread Loaf. Maybe not. I hadn’t heard of it until one day, two fall semesters ago, when my Creative Writing teacher at Mesa Community College told me, in that way he always expressed his opinion, as if he were open to hearing your objections, not because they were valid, but because he believed there was value in standing up for yourself, that if I wanted to be a serious writer then I should attend a writing conference and if I was going to attend a writing conference, it might as well be Bread Loaf.

The name, which stands out in that vaguely preppy sense, of something old and prestigious and yet quite silly, comes from Bread Loaf Mountain, named because it was shaped like a loaf of bread. It is 89 years old and an off-shoot of the ridiculously small (my high school had just as many students) Middlebury College in Vermont.

I had reservations about attending. First, and sadly foremost, I have never felt comfortable around other writers. I find myself secretly hating them and wishing, when they talk of things like theme and the occasion of telling, that they would shut up or, at the very least, change the topic to something less troubling like religion or politics. Second, though a very close second, attending Bread Loaf, as I was invited to attend, sans fellowship, would clear out my savings and leave me broke. Third, going would mean stepping down from my Middle Management position at the company where I’ve worked for the past 5 years, because, of course, Bread Loaf dates coincided with blacked out days on the store manager’s calendar, meaning no time-off allowed.

I am telling you this up front, so, as you read my mixed thoughts, you will still believe me when I say that, if you love to write, then you should do whatever it is you can do to attend a writing conference like Bread Loaf.

Let’s go over the facts: To attend Bread Loaf it will costs around $3000 and that will include just room and board and your tuition through Middlebury College. That’s for your workshop, whether it be in Fiction, Poetry or Nonfiction, and for your shared room up on the Mountain in one of the Houses. You can, as I did, choose to stay off campus at a nearby Inn (there are two of them, one about 8 miles away and another about 16 miles away) or even look up cabins that are listed at a discount rate for Bread Loafers. If I had inquired a little sooner, I would have been able to stay in a four bedroom house with a full kitchen for only one hundred dollars a night.

To get to Bread Loaf, I drove North out of Burlington for a little over an hour and then passed through Middlebury, almost without realizing it, then drove up to Ripton, a town with one white Lutheran Church (that hosted a play based off of Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth while I was there), an old country store that sold turkey sandwiches wrapped in plastic wrap and worms for fishing, and The Chipmann Inn, where I stayed. After Ripton, you have to just go a little further up the Mountain, past the Homer Noble Farm where Robert Frost stayed before leaving with Homer Nobel’s wife. Then you are there, where the road plateaus and the view opens up.

Bread Loaf

Every other day you go to Workshop. When you are not at Workshop, you can attend craft classes, which cover things such as The Art of the Paragraph and Using Autobiographical Elements in Your Fiction. Every morning you pick up your copy of The Crumb, the Bread Loaf Newsletter, and it tells you what readings and talks are going on that day and who is coming to the Mountain and who is leaving. I got to listen to the editors of the New England Review talk about what they most looked for when accepting a piece of writing (they have to love it). And the preferences of the publishers of the small press Graywolf (they have to love it, and it has to be something they can see other people loving). And I heard from one wise editor, from an organization whose name I unfortunately can’t remember, speak about how he is finding more and more writers who are worrying about their social media presence, their Twitter followers, the way their book cover will be designed, but not worrying half that much about the quality of their work. The work, he said repeatedly, comes first.

Bread Loaf

If you do go to a conference and there is off-conference housing, I do recommend taking that option. I think I would have gone crazy spending 10 days up on the Mountain, surrounded by people like me. I escaped every night with my girlfriend to Middlebury, to one of its two bars that was open past 10. Sometimes I would skip out of Bread Loaf in the middle of the day, growing tired of readings and talks by editors, and we would shop around Middlebury and walk through Middlebury College. You have to leave writing eventually, I think, in order to keep finding things to write about.

After my story was Workshopped, and it was a good Workshop, I got, like everyone else, a one-on-one with my Workshop Leaders.

I met my first Workshop Leader, a woman with long black hair and a hard face, in the Bread Loaf Barn, where the dances were held and the Bar was open every night till 10ish. Because it was cold this summer, there was always a fire in the fireplace, and the night before I had almost fallen asleep there in front of it.

She and I talked about my story briefly. I didn’t have many questions. Then we talked about MFA programs and writers I should read. This was her sixth time teaching at Bread Loaf. She looked around the barn and talked about the stories she had heard in the earlier years of its existence. There was more drinking and sleeping around. A lot of older men writers invited up younger women. She said her favorite story was about Richard Yates, who got drunk or high or both and climbed one of the buildings and had a prophetic vision which ended with him shouting out that he was God.

She smiled and said that for a long time, people joked that it should be called “Bed Loaf.”

My next Workshop Leader was less comfortable talking. He had been that way in Workshop, too. He had good things to say and he would often lead the discussion, but it took him time to find the words and then even more time to find what order to place the words in.

We met out on the front porch of the main office and enjoyed the view, sitting on an old bench that creaked beneath us.

When he spoke, his hands were out in front of his chest and his fingers were tense, as if grasping at some machine with knobs and wires.

He had held a craft class on James Joyce’s use of epiphany in Dubliners; a craft class I had very much wanted to attend, but the time didn’t fit with the rest of my schedule. I have always felt like the epiphanies of my stories are never realized, that my characters are dancing around this great realization that would shatter the lives they had been trying so hard to live. But nothing ever resolved. It was the biggest critique of my story, that I didn’t allow my characters to grow and I should allow them to do more.

He spoke to me about taking time off in between undergrad programs and grad programs, about working a little, traveling a little. The next day was the end of Bread Loaf and I’d fly out with my girlfriend around four in the afternoon. He asked if I had any questions about my story and when I said no, he said “Good. You know what you need, you just need to. . . .” and he went quiet and scrunched up his face and held his hands out in front of his chest and contorted them into something like claws.

It took me nearly an hour to rearrange my luggage to include the books I bought/was given and my carry-on bag was replaced with a broken portable typewriter I bought from a small antique shop in Middlebury. It is still waiting for me to save the sixty dollars it is going to cost to fix it.

Intern Post, David Klose: An Open Letter on Lit Mags


Literary MagazinesSo you want to start reading more Literary Magazines?

I was once in your shoes. I even interned at The Review Review to review Literary Magazines, just hoping to discover more magazines and the writers they publish. And doing that, just once mind you, along with working at Superstition Review for two semesters, I’ve come across a few revelations about how I feel about Literary Magazines.

First, I think there are far too many of them. However, I guess that is better than having a shortage (well, maybe not). But since there are so many of them, there are a lot, I hate to say it, that aren’t that good. And since there are so many of them, and plenty of them don’t always produce the best work, it is good to know what you are looking for to save yourself some time. You can find a literary magazine for nearly any kind of writing and I recommend following Submittable and The Review Review on Twitter to learn just how many different lit mags there are in the world (in addition to being reminded about contests and submission dates for the various journals).

As for my preferences, I like New England Review and Alaska Quarterly Review. McSweeney’s is interesting, though I find it a bit overpriced. (Before I forget, it’s great to go to a used book store and buy back issues of lit mags for a discounted price.)

Bartelby Snopes is a fun read for online literary magazines. Anderbo is a good online lit mag as well and easy to read on your phone. I am partial to magazines I can easily read on my phone as I take the light rail into ASU and I am always looking for a valid reason to keep my head down. And, now that I think of it, while I said McSweeney’s is overpriced, they have a great app which allows you to buy some great content.

Virginia Quarterly Review is a good one, too. Let’s not forget Hayden’s Ferry Review. A lot of quality work is published out of Arizona State University. A good tip that I learned from a talk given by Amy Holman at Bread Loaf is take whatever writer you like to read and, if they have written a short story collection, look in that collection to see where some of those stories have been published previously. You will quickly see a pattern in where your favorite writers are published. If you like political writings and follow political writers, you will end up reading magazines with a political vibe.

Also, read where you want to be published if your aim is to be published one day. This way, at the very least, you’ll understand the talent of your competition. If your aim is to discover new and interesting forms/writers, check out something like Muumu House or just start looking up lit mags on Twitter and see what magazines they follow.

This isn’t to say great writing can’t be found in obscure journals. As a Nonficiton Editor at Superstition Review, I’ve come across a few obscure journals in the writer’s bio section. Sometimes I look them up and read a few of the stories featured in their journal. But usually, I find better odds at the roulette table, and that’s betting on individual numbers.

The trick, I think, is to follow writers you like and find the writers they like and use that to branch out into different magazines. I think this is a more successful (not to mention time saving) approach, rather than just jumping head first into a pool of literary magazines. But I do tend to tray towards the more established lit mags when I can, because I like to read from the journals where I’d like to be published.

One more thing I heartily recommend is reading fiction/poetry from magazines that don’t just specialize in writing fiction/poetry, such as The New Yorker or Esquire. The best stories can be found in the most unusual places if you follow your favorite writers. For example, when I was about 14 I was really into reading Chuck Palahniuk. One day I found out he was publishing a new short story called Guts in Playboy Magazine. I pleaded with my dad to buy it for me so I could read the story. He bought it for me, tearing out the story and throwing away the magazine (or so he’d like me to believe). I still remember reading that story, the edges all ripped, the pages paper-clipped together. Thinking back on it, what happened in that story was probably more adult than anything else in that magazine.

This isn’t me telling you to buy Playboy. This is me saying there are so many magazines out there, so many avenues for writers to publish their work, that you are better off following writers as they publish and just sticking to your list of highly established and respected magazines, as your safe “go-to” journals.

Guest Post, David Klose: Poetry on the 16th Hole

The Waste Management Open (still referred to as the Phoenix Open by most people) is not about golf. The people I talked to never talked about golf, except for one couple who wondered if anybody famous was playing. The day I went was the day of the Pro Am and it was Emmet Smith and Randy Johnson and some other non pro-golfers playing. I guess Bill Murray had played there once before and someone told me that Tiger Woods never plays the Open anymore because he had been heckled by an onlooker, someone yelling racial slurs. The day before I was at the open two people were kicked out for spitting on a member of the National Guard.

Phoenix Open

People trade passes to get into exclusive blocked off parties. Each party is at or near a certain hole. Everyone wants the 16th hole. The wildest hole in golf where drunks toss things at the course, where people throw punches, do body shots, dance on tables and everyone, everyone, wants at least one more round. People moan about the loss of the infamous caddie races, about how hard it is now to get tickets to the Bird’s Nest, the night club which opens early evening and closes after three a.m. There were four thousand DUIs last year as a result of the drinking at the Phoenix Open.

It isn’t all bad. This is just the logical end result of what happens when thousands of people meet in one area and drink and interact.

This was my first time at the Phoenix Open, and it made me think of other events I’ve attended. I thought of how I saw Kanye West at U.S. Airways, or how I celebrated the 4th of July at Chase Field, or the time I spoke broken German through the city of Munich on its Birthday Party years ago during my Summer vacation.

Then I remembered the first time I won an Award for Creative Writing. I placed third in a community college competition. I still won a decent amount of money for bronze. The Awards Ceremony took place in a large room at the top of the library. The people in the audience as I read my poem were made up of the judges, of creative writing faculty, of creative writing students who were interested and those were in desperate need of extra credit. After I read, no one talked really but golf clapped as I walked back to my seat. It was a standard reading, which isn’t a good thing. For after-ceremony snacks, they served brownies and lemonade.

I have been to a few other literary events after that one. Usually I dread going to a reading, especially if it is an author whose work I love, because I often don’t like the actual voice of the author compared to the voice I had created in my mind. I had seen two married poets read in that same library room at the college, a year or so later. I placed in the same Award contest again, this time coming out on first in two categories. I remembered to bring Tupperware with me, to take home the left over brownies. I had gone to Changing Hands before, too. I saw Benjamin Hale read from his first novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. It was the first reading I really enjoyed, because the author was more of an actor than a reader. It was one of those readings where you just wanted to start talking to the writer, where you just wanted to go up to him and ask him anything. I was once at a coffee shop on its Open Poetry Mic Night and drank my espresso, my poems pulled up on my phone, waiting for someone to go up to the mic and read first. No one did and I went home before finishing my drink.

At the Open my first drink was a gin and tonic and my brother got a beer. It was just about to hit 11:30.

“You have somewhere you have to be today?” he asked.

“Not really. It’s my day off, but I thought about going in to work. And there’s a reading tonight at a bookstore that I may go to for school.”

“Who’s reading?”

“I don’t know. A poet, I guess” I said.

It was the Alberto Rios reading at Changing Hands Bookstore. I didn’t know at the time that he had been named Arizona’s first Poet Laureate and that this was a small celebration in his honor.

The poetry of Alberto Rios is literal. Not so much the kind of poetry I was used to reading, where a tree becomes a metaphor for the way your father used to beat you. It was more a Garrison Keillor-like story told with funny formatting but without the Lutherans. It is dipped in politics and accompanied by the voice of someone who is not impressed with tricks or gimmicks. His poetry was enjoyable, and his conversations with the audience were fantastic. A really great reading, I think, is one where you almost want to tell the poet to close his book and come down and join the crowd.

It isn’t that the golf at the Phoenix Open, like the reading at Changing Hands, doesn’t matter. It is golf that got people to show up, but something more was needed to make people stay. The poetry needs to be there, in all its incarnations, between and around the people as they move closer and closer together. The poetry was there at Changing Hands, too, even after he finished and looked up at the small audience and smiled.

As strange as their juxtaposition was, I’m glad I got to experience two, if very different, rich Arizona traditions.

Guest Post, David Klose: The Art of Falling Behind

The truth of the matter is that I am at least a week behind in three of my classes and just finally caught with up the other three. In more detail, I’d say that I still need to read Beowulf and haven’t even begun to read the essays and poems by the masters of the Harlem Renaissance and that upcoming exam, the one that takes places either on a Thursday or Saturday, is worth 100 points, like all the others, and I’ve already missed one. 100 points is just how it sounds: significant. Don’t even get me started on the History of Medieval Inquisition. The textbook for that class has an uncreased spine and, as I write this, is holding up my half empty can of soda. I will be, by the Arizona Fall, a collector of the most expensive coasters, paper weights and bug killers you can find, the kind you can only buy after waiting for an hour in a gold and maroon line at the Textbook store. That’s to say I am not making improvement. That’s to say there hasn’t been progress. But there has – I just have a hard time of seeing it. And the grades, so easy to derail, are slow on the incline.

Let me back up. I have taken more classes than I can handle. Let me back up again. I have not adequately prepared for the classes which I am taking. I am sure I can handle them, with a little bit of care, with a little less time spent at work. They are random classes, being used to fill up the elective space on my DARS report. They range from Mythology to Geography to Beginner’s German and only one class, really, can be said to be about English literature, which is my major. Still, they involve reading and note taking and, because of my job, which requires more of my life than I’d like to admit, all of these classes are online. Over the summer, I bought a new writing desk and stocked it with paperclips and a desk calendar, nearly a yard long, with fist sized spaces for each day of the month, that is now blank. I tried it for August and the beginning of September and I tried sitting at the desk and keeping my mind on the discussion board in front of me. But, it didn’t work. I’d suddenly remember that I hadn’t vacuumed in a while or that I need to Google the “paleo diet” to find out what it is and see why everyone is going so crazy over it. Then I’d get tired and cross the day off the calendar, moving the tasks onto tomorrow and go to bed.

This is my first year at ASU. I came from Mesa Community College, where I was a full time student taking one class a semester online, the rest on campus. I passed everything easily, except for math, which, I used to joke, is how one decides to become an English major. I did the homework, of course, and studied for the tests — though never for very long — and always with a TV show on in the background or with music playing. I can’t read in silence. I will fall asleep. Nine times out of ten, I will fall asleep, no matter what I am reading, no matter if I love it and can’t wait to see how the story plays out–I am dead asleep two to three pages deep.

Now, at ASU, I am behind. The kind of behind that has me a little worried. I am behind when you don’t want to be behind. You can be behind at community college. They won’t tell you that, and I probably shouldn’t say it, and I mean no offense, but it’s true. You can be behind there for a pretty long time before you have to worry about failing. But now I am at ASU and now I am behind and the semester seems almost over–is it almost over?–and I can’t tell you what I’ve learned except a few blurbs about this topic and that topic and I know all of the history, I just don’t know the dates or names. I am so behind I’ve pulled all nighters and fallen asleep at work, scrunched down in my office chair while on a conference call. I’ve been woken up by co-workers and they joke that I must’ve been real drunk the night before. God, I wish it had been a case of being real drunk the night before.

How do I fix this? I can’t work less. I cannot change the ever shifting hours which come with retail, from working 7 am to 4pm, followed by a 1pm to 10pm, followed by another 7 am to 4 pm, then an 11am-8pm. And I can’t seem to find the time to be so completely alone with my homework. I can’t seem to do what I wanted to do with my first semester at ASU. That is, to pull a Jonathan Franzen. You know Jonathan Franzen. The guy who insulted Oprah, and also happened to write a few books. His books are long books and they are good, though I haven’t finished them because I keep falling asleep at the part where the flashbacks begin. He writes them on an old laptop using an old word processor. The genius even breaks the ports so he can’t hook his laptop up to the internet. He probably burns the wi-fi out of the air with a lighter and writes in log cabins with no electricity.

But I’m sorry, I’m no good at writing in cabins or reading in silence, or turning off the rest of the world and living solely and completely in one particular task. Most of it, I admit, is weakness. I am weak when it comes to movies and going out and listening to music and reading other books, other stories, stuff not on the syllabus. What am I to do? The only answer seems to be to try and study chaotically.

Let me explain. I like to stay up late and I read a little bit of each assigned text at a time, so as not to get bored and fall asleep. I am writing this in my bed, blankets over my body, pillow holding up my head, typing slowly and awkwardly, the kind of typing you do when it’s hard to move one hand but you don’t want to get up because you’re so damn comfortable. Did I mention that YouTube is open on the browser? Did I mention that, no joke, I really can’t get enough of Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus (not just for the video) and that last week, when I should have been writing about feminism in early African American literature, I was listening to thirty minutes of Eminem rap battling raps with other rap battling rappers? I now keep copies of stories and poems that I need to read at home, at work, and in my car. On really lucky days I get stuck waiting for the train to cross the tracks at Center and Broadway and can read three to five paragraphs on the the history of Vikings before traffic starts to move again. And, I am not kidding here, I keep most of my school books in the bathroom, stacked on top of the no-touch wastebasket. The more time I spend in the bathroom, the more reading I can do (I’ve only fallen asleep on the toilet once before) and if I get bored, as happens from time to time, I just put down the book and take out my phone and read BBC news or play Ruzzle or look at Instagram to see what foods my friends are eating.

After work, when it’s time write an essay or take a quiz, I click on the TV and put on my favorite show. Then I turn the volume down to barely noticeable and I keep it down until the funny parts comes up and then I turn it up and laugh. Then I turn it back down and continue on with my work.

Now, I am looking forward to the next semester where I can plan better. Now, I’m a big believer in partial credit, because it always seems to add up to just enough. I think that’s how I have resorted to getting things done: a partial bit at a time. I like to write the beginnings of my essays on the yellow legal pad we use to write up action plans at work. I read the prompts to my discussion board assignments before going to work, so during work, when I don’t need all of my mental capacity for the subject at hand, I form sentences in my mind, how I will answer the prompt later. I try to get at least 80% done with the question before I get home and type it up.

I don’t study. At least, I don’t sit at home and study. As you can probably guess, I usually fall asleep. I don’t need to count sheep, just notecards. Instead, I like to read a little and talk a lot about the little that I read. At work, instead of telling people about my weekend, I will tell them something I learned. A little bit of history or how to say something in German. This doesn’t make me the most popular person, but sometimes you find things out about other people, like which of your co-workers speak a foreign language and which of them never will.

It’s not about multitasking which, everyone loves to tell me, is technically impossible. No, it’s about not wasting the minutes of the day. It’s about stacking a little bit of work on top of a little bit of work until the entire task is done. It’s about connecting the five minutes I had of reading in the morning while drinking coffee to the ten minutes late at night I have for answering questions while waiting for the water to boil soft the hard pasta.

I am behind in my studies. At this very moment, I am behind. I am behind, I think, in this blog post. I am behind at work, which is hard to believe since it is only October and we are already almost done with setting up our Christmas displays. I have set up alerts on my phone for all the due dates of all my assignments for the rest of the semester but so far I’ve just been ignoring the alarm, like a text from an old friend I don’t talk to anymore. The desk calendar is still blank and most of my homework is done standing up. I just have to sit down to write it out. It isn’t a good thing to be behind, but I guess it’s better than being stagnant. That isn’t probably the best lesson to learn (and spread) but at least I’ll get partial credit and that will stack onto other credit until the task is done. And if you want to catch me sitting still, your best luck is to find me on the toilet, flipping through pages of Chaucer, looking for the parts I plan on quoting on the next discussion board, looking for the parts that sound right.