Tuesday, April 29, 2008

just do it--write, that is

writing is on my mind.

a couple of days ago i talked to a friend who told me that she had just submitted an article to be published.

"that's great!" i tell her, feeling a pit in my stomach, knowing that i should be submitting articles to be published.

"i'm on a high," she told me. "you should do it."


this afternoon a student came into my office hours asking for advice about how to revise her introductory paragraph. just as i was about to ask her what she meant when she mentioned some social theory, she asked me what it meant.

we started to talk about writing, and i told her that she shouldn't use ideas if she's not clear about what they mean. i told her that i know that the instinct is to feel like she needs to write in an overly-academic way, but that it is more important for her to sound like herself. to find her "voice" in her writing. after all, i'm more interested in her ideas and interpretations than her use of jargon.

she seemed encouraged when she left, and she told me that she was going to "simplify" her paper before turning it in on thursday.


why is writing so fraught?

i think that i feel a little bit like my undergraduate student. i'm afraid that the articles that i'm revising are not going to be "academic" enough, that they will in fact be too simple. maybe i'm afraid that i won't be as successful an academic as i was a graduate student (i'm a great student).

in any event, i can take heart in my friend's writing high and hope that i get there. soon!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

on the wagon

so i've fallen off the fitness wagon. my sister warned me that boyfriends will do this to you. but i didn't pay attention. i was happy and in love. two years later, i'm still happy, still in love, but let's just say that i should have heeded my sister's warning.

little by little, i've been making changes. joseph, in an effort to support me, has also decided to try to be more conscientious about food choices.

today we planned to go to the movies. joseph is a sucker for movie popcorn. he LOVES it, can't see a movie without it. it's possibly more important to him than the movie itself.

in our effort to be healthy, we looked up the number of calories in a large bag of movie popcorn, which is what we typically share. we were shocked to find out that it has nearly 1300 calories. WITHOUT BUTTER. a small bag of movie popcorn, on the other hand, has about 550 calories.

no problem, he (we) thought. we'll just eat less.

when we walked into the movie theater we were accosted by the smell of popcorn. i knew there would be trouble.

in the concession stand line, joseph decided on a small bag of popcorn and a bottle of water. but when the concession guy asked for our order, joseph said, "a smm-edium popcorn."

a smm-edium popcorn?!

poor guy, he couldn't resist. i laughed and told him that i was going to blog about this later.

yum-o! (hi, joseph!).

(image via flickr, courtesy of y entonces.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

something to declare

i used to be a writer. from the time i was sixteen years old until the past year or so, i religiously wrote in a journal, finishing one journal every three to four months! i used to blog semi-regularly. i used to write poetry. i wrote a 250 page dissertation. now, however, i have to scrape the corners of my mind for something to write (or, something to declare, as julia alvarez has eloquently written).

it wears on me, not because i'd like to consider myself a "writer," but because my job requires that i write. "publish or perish" is a common adage in academia. if i can't manage to blog or write in a journal, how am i to produce a well-conceived, well-written academic article?

the other day one of my girlfriends from texas sent me an article that she'd written about a tejana activist who helped organize a protest for educational rights for mexican americans in the early 1970s. i started to read it, and i could sense the passion that my friend had for this woman's story. and i remembered that i used to have that, too.

i used to know a guy in mexico who would tell me that he wrote "cuando le llegaba la musa." i always thought it romantic to be waiting for a "muse" to inspire a person to write. as i got more serious about my writing, however, i realized that it was as much about discipline as it was inspiration. these days it's difficult for me to conjure either one or the other.

right now i'm supposed to be revising an article about mexican american women in farm labor during the 1950s and 1960s. i've been putting off this revision for a LONG time. i don't know if it's a lack of passion or inspiration. maybe it's a good old fashioned fear of writing.

i think that i'm looking a place to begin. maybe blogging a little more can be a place to start.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008


i have to admit that i love the first day of a new quarter, just like i love the first day of a new year, the way that i love writing on the first page of a new journal. to me, those moments always feel like a new chapter of life, a chance to do things a little bit better.

last quarter was dire. i was a miserable teacher. i was a miserable colleague. the first three months of the year were some of my most challenging as a professor.

but today was the first day of the new quarter. i'm teaching one very small class that meets once a week, and most of my other professional obligations (committee work, etc.) ended last quarter. and even though today was a long day of making last minute adjustments to my syllabus, attending a faculty meeting, teaching, copying articles, and configuring the course website, i left campus feeling optimistic.

it is a new beginning.