What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

03 February 2011

A Part of Me

I'm going to be a jerk and openly declare that I'm irritated by the TA (hereafter known as Skinny Jeans-- I don't understand how she can breathe in those things) for my Creative Problem Solving class. I admit that the problem is me, not her; she's a normal grad student in her late 20s, but I have something hard-wired into my brain to be really irritated by people who are in a life stage that I recently left. I am amused by the freshmen who were still in preschool when I was their age, but someone so close in years to myself-- I have a harder time giggling at her foibles. See? I told you I was a jerk.

Anyway. Last week, the class brainstormed together to get ideas for the research project that we each have to do this semester (identify a problem and research possible solutions, or do a case study of a person/entity who solved a problem). At the end, we went around the room and each shared one possible topic. My classmates came up with lots of good ones, hitting all the current highlights of public life: Obesity, health care, education, the environment... I've forgotten most of them, but you get the picture. So when it came round to me, I said, "A case study on how NASA changed after Challenger."

I kid you not-- the other 14 students, in unison, said "Wow." That's never happened to me before, nor do I expect it to happen again, but it was definitely a high point of my day. There's something to be said for having 14 extra years' worth of experiences to bring to the table. Skinny Jeans was less impressed:

Skinny Jeans: Cool. But how does that apply to you?
I (confused): It doesn't, except that I was really traumatized by Challenger.
SJ: Well, okay, but you need to do something that relates to you.
I: Ah.

I'm sure that she is correct, and that applicability to my life is a big part of this assignment. But, I have to say, I think that statement gives away that she isn't a writer. (You were wondering how I was going to bring this round to writing, weren't you? No? Oh.) Because anything I write becomes a part of me, because I put a part of myself into it. And when research is involved, especially three months' worth of research, I'm even more connected to my writing material. Even though this is academic writing, not creative, the principle is the same: Once I write about something, it's part of me forever.

This, I am sure, is one reason that writers are collectively weird. And why our Google searches might one day get us arrested. And why we pass our time in public intently staring at strangers or writing notes in a restaurant. And why, when the muse is on duty, it would take a nuclear bomb going off in the same room for the writer to be distracted from his/her work. It's not just because of an addictive personality; it's because we're in the process of shaping ourselves, giving and taking with the material, changing and being changed by the very words we record.

For the record, I'm not doing my project on NASA or Challenger. It's still a hard topic for me, and I mostly suggested it to jolt my classmates out of talking-head mode so they would throw the net a bit wider. But whatever I choose, it hardly matters whether it relates to me on February 3rd; after so much time with a topic, I will certainly have internalized it come May 6th. Because I'm a writer.

Please, please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this, and that your writing also gets deep into your head. Or share your best writers-act-weird-in-public story.


Alison Pearce Stevens said...

I think it absolutely affects you personally. I vividly remember that day (we watched it live in class). Learning how NASA dealt with it would give me confidence in our government agencies. It would help me know that they really do learn from their mistakes (which is, uh, not always apparent). And yes, I internalize my writing. :)

J E Fritz said...

It annoys me that she said you need to do something that "relates" to you. Because it does. I read your post about the challenger and how, despite not personally knowing anyone involved, it did affect you. It's like she's saying you caring about something outside of you is not a good reason.

And you're so right about writing. Yeah, we write about "what we know" but that isn't all we right about. I right about loss when I haven't lost anyone. I right about pain when I'm fine. And I watch everything around me and wonder "why." All those things follow me around everywhere. Perhaps the curse of being a writer is that you don't forget, don't let go.

For the record, I think your idea sounded cool. My writer-in-public story? Probably the time I explained exactly how much force it takes to crack a human skull. From the inside.

Faith said...

Geez. I think that topic definitely relates to you, if it impacted you in some way. Who is she to say it didn't? Grrr.

I think the strangest writing thing I've done in public is discuss the most effective ways to murder someone, preferably with an odorless/tasteless poison that's easily obtained but untraceable. Hmm. Yeah, that would have been an odd conversation to eavesdrop on...

Michelle in a shell said...

Writing definitely is an intense passion. I really love "we're in the process of shaping ourselves, giving and taking with the material, changing and being changed by the very words we record."

Great way to put it!

But, on the other hand...TA's are a giant pain!

Su said...

Yay! I am not alone! Not that I was worried, of course... ;)

@Alison: Ugh. No kidding about learning (or not) from mistakes!

@JE: I think it's likely that I annoy her as much as she annoys me. :/ Ce la vie... And that is a brilliant writer-in-public story; I'm sorry I missed it!!

@Faith: I hope you weren't in a restaurant at the time. ;)

@Michelle: Thanks! I'm hoping that I'm not that TA someday... although I fear that I will be. Sigh...

erica and christy said...

Good blog post. Hey, I already hate Skinny Jeans a little.

I'm 35 and I co-teach with 3 people who are 30, 27, and 24. Everything I do is weird to them...

Su said...

Hee hee. I'm a "make friends with people older than me" kind of gal, so I wouldn't think you were weird!

Margo Kelly said...

LOVE this post! Collectively weird? Yeah, probably. Arrested for Google searches - LOL - hahahaha. Yeah, probably! Addictive personality - absolutely.

Great post.

Su said...

When my own search history includes "tea bags", "local restaurants", "suicide notes", "drug abuse symptoms", and the like, I have to hope that Big Brother isn't that interested in me. ;)