Just Write, A Reflection

One of the magical results of blogging is when somebody finds your writing via the Internets Search Engine Machine. You put a post out there, your readers read (whomever you lovely folks are). Some people comment, some people DM you, and a small beautiful few will bring up the post in real life. But really, a blog post sits and waits for the right reader. The person who finds your words to be what they need to read. On that day. Or at least that’s how it works for me.

If I imagine personifying a blog post—and why not, this is my bloggy blog after all—I imagine a post to be like a yogi in a meditative state. She sits. Lets the Internet roll by. Expects nothing. Gives nothing. Until one day, a phrase or a hashtag sounds like fog horn in the distance, and what was once a peaceful calm state, springs back into life. Your notifications light up.

HEY! SOMEBODY HAS READ THIS. YOU NEED TO RESPOND.

And that’s just a blog post comment. If somebody posts a summary on Twitter, then that post clangs like a one-ton bell in my notifications. When I look at them. I don’t have the push notifications from the Twitterz and the Insta anymore. It was becoming too much. When somebody does engage with an old post, I look at the link. I pause. I try to be happy instead of paranoid.

And then I have to remember what the fuck I even wrote.

Surely, you say, your title must give you some indication of what you were thinking. What you posted. What you thought. What you typed. Surely, I agree, that makes total sense for somebody who thinks differently than me.

I Make Up Twenty Titles A Day To Entertain Myself: A Memoir

In other words, my titles tell me nothing.

I then get this sinking feeling. “Shit. What did I say? Will I still believe my own thoughts? Oh dear. Okay, just breath and reread your shit. Some random stranger on the interwebs pulled your words out of the oblivion. The least you can do is respond. The least you can do is honor the person you used to be who shared those thoughts.”

Usually this walk down bloody memory lane goes down one of three avenues.

1] I either love what I wrote, I love this person for reading it, and/or I just fall head over heels thinking about how I’ll respond. It’s pure joy. Hello new Internet Friend. Let’s click our brains together like Wonder Woman’s bracelets and fuck shit up. (Sees 10,000 rainbows).

2] I hate what I wrote. I’m no longer that person. I regret whatever crazy ass state I was in when I busted out that blather. I’ve moved beyond those words, I think. So I post a polite response of gratitude, and I move on with my life. Sometimes, I have to hear the words of the great French singer, Edith Piaf, and I regret nothing. I accept I was who I was then, and if I’m going to think and work in the Open then I have to see this post as a trace of who I once was.

3] I delete the post and I respond privately to the person who took the time to read and respond to my work. I’ve only done this twice. Something I wrote was misunderstood, and I didn’t want to explain my orginal point. They were crappy posts so I deleted them. Maybe I’m a coward. Maybe I’m “an emotional blogger”—a phrase once used by somebody who was trying to give me “professional coaching.” That person also told me to not use the F Bomb so much and work more research into my post. That’s obviously going really fucking well.

If you’re going to push Publish, then you have to be open to feedback, criticism, and random thoughts. All of my favorite bloggers taught me that.

So when I saw the lovely sweet tweet from @klabadorf my stomach lurched. Ohmyfuckinggawd what did I write about? Then I clicked on the post and saw that it was seven months ago. A lifetime. Also known as August 2018. The month I gave up going backpacking with my friends because we were short staffed at my jobby job and I felt like I was letting everyone down if I asked off work. My friends were disappointed in me (again), and I was sad about being on the opposite schedule of my academic friends (again). Oh dear.

But then I read it, and yes, I was obviously in A State. Kinda charged up about something. But I liked what I wrote about then, and I loved how the Tweeter summarized it even more. Thanks @klabadorf!

Here’s the only thing that I would change, and then I’ll add another idea that I want to throw out there. Something I need to get off my chest. I’ve promised myself that I will blog once a month, and somehow February ends this week so I’ve got to get to it.

Here’s a reflection on that old post. And another idea.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

No. That’s not it.

That quote is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, and I suppose you can burn my Feminist Card, but I love Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises rocked my little world as undergraduate, and I taught “Cat in the Rain” to my pre-college level English Composition students for years. The worst teaching review I ever received was from a dean who spent my entire classroom observation revising how I “should have” taught that short story to my students.

This is the same dean who tried to cut interviewees for adjunct positions by making them diagram sentences. She sauntered into the last 15 minutes of my interview and handed me a quote of Toni Morrison’s and asked me diagram it. What a conceited bitch. Little did she know, I rocked sentence diagraming when I was in third grade. And I hadn’t used sentence diagramming since, mind you, but who’s keeping track?

Those slanted lines made sense to me. Like avenues and streets for words. I had heard a rumor that this dean would make you perform this esoteric if not completely outdated activity in order to prove your worth as an English major. So I studied. I needed the job. I was sweating in my business suit as she sat across the table from me and graded my work like I was undergrad instead of a grown woman with the same credentials as her. I look back now and see this woman as a person who thrives on the power to diminish people by fooling herself into thinking she was upholding “standards.” Not that I’m one to hold a grudge (slow wink)– I just can’t see Hemingway’s name without thinking of her and that observation that I never included in my teacher portfolio. Even though that one class taught me more than any other because of the students.

I taught that story because it was short. My students could find it online outside of the learning management system. And it taught my students that a very simple story could mean a lot of different things to many different people. It taught my English language learners that a famous American author wrote in plain English. No fancy words. Students could see transitions that indicated a passage of time. They debated about symbolism. They talked about relationships.

In other words, I saw little use in teaching sentence diagraming and memorizing parts of speech when my students needed to build their confidence as writers. Most of them were amazing story tellers, they just hadn’t learned how to put it on the page. Professional writers really intimated them until they met Hemingway. I never mentioned what Hemingway did in his free time. I never mentioned his politics. What he did sober. What he did drunk. We just read the words and the story. I’m sure sentence diagramming would have helped retention since they were all bound to be linguistics majors. That was a hot job market in the early aughts (that’s sarcasm).

Okay, where was I? Oh. Right.

Writing drunk.

Nope.

Edit sober.

Yes. Always. In fact, find another editor who is better than you.

One Other Reflection: A Memoir

I’ve been a little quiet on the interwebs because all of my free time is sunk into either my bike team or my writing. Which is making me very happy. I’ve gone through my box of journals since December, and I’ve been mining for any gold that I may have produced by hand, and let me tell you, what I produced while drinking fucking sucks.

I felt like a star while writing and my level of confidence was sky high, but really, what I created stinks. Like not even worth my time editing sober. How can you tell if you were drunk, you might ask. My handwriting slants in a way that I hate. I also take up a lot more space on the page with a big font, and when I’m sober, I hate wasting paper. I also digress into weird to-do lists that I somehow fool myself into thinking that I’m creating outlines. I’ve laughed outloud more at my own thoughts in the last two months than I thought was possible. Write drunk? Edit sober? You’re wasting your time, Indrunas. Just write.

One other thing that I would add to this post of mine while I’m on the topic of addictive substances? I’d add a request that people stop talking about “gateway drugs” and OER. I see this phrase a lot during academic conference season, and I fucking hate that phrase more than anything. I’ve lost my shit on a colleague who used this phrase, and we had to have a conversation to get on the on the other side of it. We’re good now.

Here’s the thing.

When has addiction ever led to happiness? Let’s take the example of marijuana as a gateway drug to opioid addiction. It’s usually alcohol that’s the gateway drug, for the record, but we don’t have the same hang-ups about alcohol that we do with marijuana. Most addicts will tell you that trying a low-stakes drug like marijuana led to one attempt of something harmful to another harmful substance. And they almost always drank before they smoked pot. But somehow alcohol is okay. We accept that drug as a society.

Can you think of one use “gateway drug” that leads to anything positive? Let me try it.

That bag of kale chips was a gateway drug into my extreme snobby locavore habit.

No.

That night I binge-watched The Wire was a gateway drug to being really productive on the weekend.

No.

I’ve argued this advice for years, so I want to share it here. This is my advice for when you’re working with teachers who are learning about open education for the very first time.

Talk about “Sampling” materials instead of calling OER materials “gateway drugs”—and I’m purposefully not using “free samples” because they aren’t free. Companies mark up the product to pay for the distribution of the free samples. Or they take a hit in their profits. I used to think that my students were getting that Hemingway story for free on the Internet, but really that access required labor of some sort–accessing the Internet, driving to a campus computer lab, printer ink, and quite possibly time that they could have been studying.

So maybe just talk about samples, or sampling. Like what you see at Cosco. When would you ever buy a box of 1000 pork taquitos if not for those samples? Or those Mochi small bites at Whole Foods? Totally makes sense to spend $15 dollars on 8oz of ice cream. So totally worth it. Or that weird spinach ravioli dinner from Trader Joes? All you wanted was that free coffee while you shopped and somehow that frozen dinner ended up in your cart. Now it’s rotting in the back of your refrigerator.

Oh, and all you cycling dorks who are crying about Zwyft upcharging you now? Same. They gave it to you “for free” until they built up a market who will pay for it. Talk about a gateway drug. You totally need to see if you can PR on the Champs-Elysees. Again. Totally worth it. And really, you dropped a grand on a stationary bike and you’re crying about $10? How much is that road bike you’re Zwyfting on? For fuck’s sake. Privilege, Meet My Lack of Sympathy.

So, that’s it. Stop using “gateway drug” to using OER. Imagine half of your audience has somebody in their lives who struggles with addiction. Imagine a third of your audience was abused as a child because of somebody high on a gateway drug. Imagine a third of your audience might be a recovering alcoholic who never talks about it.

Imagine your audience as a group of positive people who deserve positive examples.

Just call OER a gateway to better teaching and learning.

Diagram your words, and edit out the negative. Say and teach the words worth keeping.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, #OER, professional development, adult education & writing. Travels to talk about Open Education during the workweek. Advocates for more girls on bikes during the weekend. Bike racer w/ @queensofdirt A Memoir.
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2 Responses to Just Write, A Reflection

  1. Todd Conaway says:

    Your writing wants me to be a book reviewer.
    I want to write things like, “Reading Alyson is like sipping finely crafted wine and breaking warm handmade bread. It makes me giddy. It nourishes me. It makes me want to be a writer. Here, relaxing on the soft blanket of words beneath a summer sun, I feel like my wine and bread is all I need today.”
    Brilliant. Beautiful. Thanks.

    Like

    • Thanks so much for reading, Todd. I really appreciate your response:) Blogging feels like writing on a paper of piece that blows in the wind, and I wish I had more time for it. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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