What? We Started Already?

Me and my physics teacher in high school, around 1988. No idea who drew Yoda.

Me and my physics teacher in high school, around 1988. No idea who drew Yoda.

Apparently I missed the first week of this Round of Words in 80 Days.

Just like last year, I underestimated just how busy Spring is. This year in my teaching job I’m re-using a lot more assignments than I have in the past. I need to do this more. In fact, it might be good to create specific assignments for the entire semester and re-use them every year.

When I started teaching, creating assignments was one of the most pleasant and fulfilling aspects of the job. I took pride in tweaking the homework according to what the previous assignment told me about my students’ understanding. Sometimes I’d realize that there was a topic I must not have covered well enough because the students weren’t doing it right on the homework. I’d make sure to re-touch with topic the next week (my class meets once a week) and the next assignment would include it.

Now, however, my creative energies go into writing, and that is where I want them to be. If I were to sit down and assess my long term priorities, I’d be working on writing and editing tonight instead of grading papers. However, my short-term priorities include the fact that I made a commitment, so…I grade away.

It took me a while to figure out “how” to teach a college course. For example, I love to design intricate, challenging exercises, but that doesn’t help my students gain a basic, beginner-level working knowledge of the subject. (I teach spreadsheets and databases.) I’ve learned that it is important to begin the semester with an easy assignment with an immediate due date so that students get used to turning in work on time, and so they realize that some assignments are very easy, but they still need to do them. I’ve been teaching for more than ten years now (with a baby break of a few years) and I’m still learning how to be a better teacher.

Now I’m learning how to be a better writer. Although I’d like to say I’ve found my groove, I think my career will be a constant journey of growth and change. My backlog of unedited rough drafts is a perfect example of how I need to alter the “groove” I’m in and make it something more productive.

Back in January for round one I made one of my goals to leave the recently-completed rough drafts of my two NaNo novels on the shelf for at least a couple of months. That was difficult, because my OCD brain wanted to stay in that world. I was, however, able to turn around and put my writing energies into a different story in the same world.

Then the day came (Ash Wednesday in March) when I allowed myself to go back to my rough drafts. This was supposed to be my priority; getting the stories ready to send to beta readers.

It didn’t work out that way. I only got a few chapters in before other commitments pushed it away. Short stories with deadlines, the aforementioned teaching job, kids, and other responsibilities took priority.

So, what should I say my goals are for this round? I have just three weeks left of teaching. Considering my OCD, it makes sense to let my brain stay in teacher-mode until the semester is over. And then…my priority will be to polish those two rough drafts. I’m not sure how that will translate into weekly goals. Perhaps devoting a specific number of hours or pages per week will be a good, measurable goal.

I need to thank both ROW80 and Tiffany Reisz. ROW80, because it keeps me regularly evaluating my goals so that I am both flexible and on-track. And Tiffany, because last year she told me “Pick one of those rough drafts, polish it, and query it.”

I’m working on it, Tiffany, I promise!

Just for fun, most Tuesdays I do Five Minute Fiction. In a week when I haven’t written anything, I can usually fit five minutes into my schedule to do a little flash. I’m a finalist this week (OK, only four of us posted and we’re all finalists lol!) so check it out and vote for your favorite!

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About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
This entry was posted in ROW80, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What? We Started Already?

  1. Lara McGill says:

    I checked out your Tuesday Flash Fiction (I voted for you, btw) and I was so impressed that I decided to sign up.

    Wow, this could be fun!

  2. Ryan King says:

    Every book we read and every word we write will make us a better writer. Growth and change are part of the process. Good luck with your edits!

  3. I taught at the undergraduate level for a few years, and I tended to reuse many of my assignments. After I’d taught a couple semesters, that saved me a lot of time. By far, grading papers took up the most of my time. Teaching was a rewarding but time-intensive experience.

    I’m in a similar situation with my writing, trying to get a manuscript from rough draft to query-ready. I haven’t mastered the art of revision yet, and that’s one of my main goals for this year–to prove to myself that I can take a story from first draft to finished draft.

    Good luck!

  4. Eden says:

    It’s interesting how many emotional reactions I had reading through this, AmyBeth (a clear sign of how your writing “works” on the reader). Tossing through commiseration, understanding, distress (this was when you said that your emphasis was on writing, yadda yadda… since it gave a momentary impression of you didn’t care about the students except that you were trapped by the contract to teach them, … sure this isn’t what you meant, at least not to that degree) then back to understanding, to joy and….

    Well, you can see what I mean.

    As for your future plans…. Revision is one of those things that can become all consuming. You seem to have a good sense of what it’ll take out of you, even if you’re still working out the details. Best to you this Round.

    • Although of course I care about my students, at this point I so desperately want to return to writing that it does sometimes feel like I really don’t care.
      Just like every relationship, there are times when you sludge through the tough/boring parts. Times ahead will be better.

  5. shanjeniah says:

    We unschool here, and an day-to-day life is largely unplanned and unscripted flowing swirl of learning that is organic and really cool to be a part of.

    But, five- six times a year, for each child (a plan for each year, four quarterly reports, and an end-of year evaluation, if it’s not a testing year) , I need to do some form of reporting to my local school district, and take all that lively, engaged, independent learning, and translate it into schoolspeak, so that they can see that learning is happening…

    I used to devote weeks to this – and i hated it. It was cool to look back at all the stuff that happened, but a drudgery to translate.

    Now, I use the same report each quarter, and only change the details. I’ve streamlined considerably, and now I can do both in a few days, taking a few minutes here and there to work on them.

    I hope you find that you can streamline, too, and carve out more time for your writing. Preset lessons you could tweak as needed sounds like a great way to go.

    I’m going to check out the Tuesday 5 minute Fiction…but maybe not until AFTER I get through the Aoril and May challenges I’ve already committed to! =D

    May your editing be fruitful!

  6. Pingback: The Creative Deeps: ROW80 Update 4/20/14 | shanjeniah

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