Recently, someone suggested that I write posts here more often. This was without doubt an incredibly kind thing to say — a writer first and foremost, after all, wants to hear that his or her work has been read — but it was also an unpleasant reminder of how busy my life has become.
That said, it did spur me to write a post here today … on how busy my life has become. I’m not looking for pity or anything of the sort, and I have no doubt that most of us have lives that are twice as busy as they ought to be. I don’t think I’m special, in other words.
That said, here’s my day in an nutshell, not counting a lot of “little” interruptions. The times are rounded off but pretty accurate, since I was keeping notes:
- 6:15. I am awoken when a 2.5-year-old girl crawls into bed. She has a cold and gets me wide awake by sneezing in my face and burrowing her snot into the blanket. I groggily wonder how my vitamin intake has been this week.
- 7:05. Alarm. Somehow I’d managed to nod back off for a few minutes there, but it’s time to get up.
- 7:10. Shower. I think a lot in the shower — probably one reason I cut my head shaving now and then — and today is no exception. Before I’m out I’ve re-written a paragraph from an academic article on Tolkien, decided how to word an email to a colleague, and determined how a character in a story-in-progress is going to look at someone in the moments before she tries to kill him.
- 7:20. Breakfast. Small talk with children while I look up what I’m scheduled to teach in about 40 minutes.
- 7:30. Thinking through how I’m going to approach my three classes today. I had to “call out” a student in my Tolkien class on Friday, so how will I handle the atmosphere today? Do I address the matter or pretend it didn’t happen? What is the cadet mood liable to be like after the weekend? Do we start with force or farce?
- 7:40. Important email sent to a colleague. For what it is worth, I’ve decided on farce. Given all the variables I have, I think it’s best.
- 7:50. Gathering materials in my office at work, I’ve decided that today is also a good day to start a couple of my classes off with some medieval warfare show and tell. I grab my battle-axe and head down the hall.
- 8:00. Tolkien class begins. This, kids, is a battle-axe. Here’s how I would kill you with it.
- 8:15. Lecture on Tolkien’s Hobbit, chapters 6 and 7. A lot of discussion about the ways in which Tolkien utilized Beowulf, and what repercussions this has for reading his text.
- 8:50. Tolkien class dismissed. I look at my syllabus to see what I’ll be teaching in 10 minutes.
- 9:00. Viking class begins. This, kids, is a battle-axe. Here’s how I would kill you with it.
- 9:15. Discussion of the end of Saga of the Volsungs. A lot of talk about the ways in which the writer both glorifies and ignores violence, and in particular with what the passive discussions of child-killing tell us about the culture of the writer and his audience.
- 9:50. Viking class dismissed. I return my battle-axe to the office and grab the book for my next class. Walking up the three flights of stairs to reach the room, I look up what the kids had to read for the day and think about how to approach it. No problem.
- 10:00. English 102 class begins. Our reading for the day was Leslie Marmon Silko’s short story, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds.” I love this story, but most of the kids didn’t seem to get it. A careful plodding through the plot ensues, in which I bring them (I think) to the light.
- 10:50. English 102 class dismissed. I retreat to my office.
- 11:00. Email arrives with last semester’s student evaluations. I take a deep breath, ever fearful that this will be the year I’m proved a fraud and a horrid professor who doesn’t do enough preparation for class (see above). Happily, it isn’t so. The evaluations are really solid. I first look at the evaluations from my two English 101 sections. Both good, though it is clear that my 9am section liked me a lot better than my 8am section. I spend the next 15 minutes reviewing everything I can about the previous semester to see if I can find a magic bullet to explain this. I cannot do so, and I know that this fact will now bother me for weeks.
- 11:20. I finally look at the evaluations for my Creative Writing course. I had been quite worried about these, since it was my first chance to teach the course at the undergraduate level here. I was hoping they’d be good enough that I’d get another shot at the course sometime. To my great relief, they’re great. Better than great, they’re positively glowing. Many comments about how the class was more difficult than they expected but they still loved it — you can imagine me beaming as I write this — but my favorite comment is this: “As I walked through the oak-finished classroom door, he stood there, book open — ready to teach the hell out of English.” 🙂
- 11:35: Done beaming, I move to the more serious business of entering these evaluation numbers into the metrics of my career record-keeping.
- 11:55. Record-keeping complete. For my career, I’m still scoring what amounts to a 95.2% when students are asked whether they consider me “an excellent teacher.” Most happily, out of the 643 students I have had on my rolls, only 6 (less than 1%) have disagreed with the sentiment.
- 12:00. Heading home for lunch. It’s a gloriously blue sunny day in Charleston, and I’m thankful for the good weather and the ability to walk home for a bite to eat at noon. Not everyone is so lucky.
- 12:45. Heading back to work. Pleasant lunch. Pleasant day. Inexplicably, I have a few lines from Chaucer’s Wife of Bath in my head. I shake them out, reminding myself that I don’t have time for such things given how much I have to get done today. This thought, in turn, makes me decide to write this post. I make a few notes on my iPhone.
- 1:15. I have to send out a number of emails to potential Honors Program students. I listen to The Black Keys as I do so, courtesy of the department secretary. I’ve never listened to much of them, but they’re pretty good.
- 1:25. Email about doing a publicity interview for my upcoming lecture on Robin Hood with Kelly DeVries (February 21 at 7pm here on campus!). Rooms and times arranged. Sure wish I could get to work…
- 1:35. I make a few quick notes to remind myself about the times and contents of my 5 lectures this spring. February 21 = Robin Hood, for the Citadel School of Humanities. March 10 = Keynote speech on narrative, for the Lowcountry Writing Project conference. March 14 = Tolkien and Beowulf, for the Friends of the Library. April 20 = Robert Jordan, for JordanCon 4 in Atlanta. May 10 = John Gower’s short poetry, for Gower Society in Kalamazoo.
- 1:40. Slight panic when I take stock of the fact that I’m ready to give only a couple of these lectures right now. Others are just a swirl of thoughts. Bloody hell, where did January go?!?
- 1:45. I set to work on my current novel-in-progress. I’ve held part of this scene in my head since my shower this morning, so it feels good to get it onto the page.
- 2:25. Interrupted from my writing by an urgent text from home: the wee lass has finally passed out for a nap (which is good), which means that I’ll need to run out to pick up the wee lad. I save my files and jog home to get the car. (I most assuredly do not run; I was recently diagnosed with a torn labrum in my hip, and I don’t want to push it.)
- 2:40. Waiting to pick up child, I think of a way that I want to put together part of an argument about what happened at the Battle of Bryn Glas in 1402. This is the topic of an essay-in-progress for my edited-book-in-progress about Owain Glyndwr.
- 3:00. The teacher smiles very kindly as she informs me that it’s Monday, which means the wee lad doesn’t get out of school until 4. I am proud that I avoided cursing in front of the children on the playground.
- 3:10. Car back home, I jog back to work. Stopping by the English Department office I exchange pleasantries with a colleague.
- 3:30. Where was I? Oh, yes. Writing. It’s been an hour since I was in the zone on the novel-in-progress, so I set that aside and open up that essay on Owain Glyndwr and the Battle of Bryn Glas.
- 4:20. Glyndwr is at a good stopping point, so I write out part of this post. I’m rather sure I’ll have more to add to it, though.
- 4:30. Composing three career-important emails.
- 4:40. Phone call interruption regarding the interviewing of candidates for the Honors Program. Subsequent email communications regarding same.
- 4:55. Heading home for food and family time.
- 7:35. Children a-bed. Considering whether to work some more.
- 7:40. Of course I need to work some more. But on what?
- 7:45. Novel-in-progress open once more.
- 10:05. Close novel-in-progress on desktop in order to look at tomorrow’s schedule. It looks brutally full until about 8pm. Imagine my elation.
- 10:10. Writing this all up, after which I plan to let the dog out and head up to bed. Party animal, eh?
- 10:30. Slight change in plans. Must make lunches for two kids. How did I space that out?
- 10:50 (predicted). Head on pillow in the dark, I’ll open up the novel-in-progress on my iPhone and write part of the next scene. It’s already simmering on my brain at 10:11, so I’m guessing it’ll be boiling in another half-hour or so.
- 11:35 (predicted). I’ll start to pass out trying to type on the iPhone in the dark. I’ll fight it in order to get … one … more … sentence …
- 11:45 (predicted). I’ll flutter my eyes awake and wonder what happened to the last 10 minutes. This is typical. And if history is any indication, I will at this point, with some small sense of loss, shut off the iPhone and hope for sleep.
- Midnight (predicted). Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …
So there you go. My day today. My reason(s) for not getting more accomplished. I’d say that this is a “typical” day, and I suppose it is in terms of how full it is. That said, one of the things I like about what I do for a living is that no day is exactly like the one before. So no day is typical in the sense of monotony.
It’s just busy. It’s just life.
And gods help me I love it.