Friday, December 11, 2009

Inside, Out, and Back Again

Every December and May we have a banquet for our graduates on the night before their commencement ceremonies. My boss and I divide up the responsibility and honor of giving the banquet address; I give the talk in December, to a smaller number of graduates, and Rick gives it in May at the larger ceremony.

Since it's a different crowd every semester, we typically repeat ourselves with impunity. I've given two addresses total, I think, in the many years I've been speaking at the December event. But for some foolish reason, I decided that I might want to write a new speech. I was just completing my second semester teaching outside of the Honors College, and I had been thinking about the lessons of the experience.

I really shouldn't have committed myself to such a major writing project during a week of grading and voting in the indieWIRE and Village Voice critics' polls. But I forced myself to think about it in the last few days. The blog post I wrote on Monday was an attempt to jumpstart the process. I didn't end up using those ideas or structure so much, but when I finally sat down Thursday afternoon to get started, I worked in fits and starts through the entire piece.

I can pound out a piece of writing if I need to. And given enough time and enough determination, it can even be good. I like to be inspired, but I don't need to be; in fact, the majority of what I write week after week comes out of necessity and not desire. When the people in my unit need a letter composed or a report drafted, they come to me. Rick says that I'm deeply shallow -- meaning I can spin a really good phrase, something with meaning and relevance and verve, really reliably. I don't always enjoy the process, but I certainly enjoy getting so much done, and having others feel they can depend on me when writing needs doing.

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