Thursday, October 30, 2008

Terrified of Writing

As a freshman at the University of Florida in 1962, we had to take a reading and comprehension test and I made the 15th percentile of all freshmen. I had not written much in high school and I did not want to write much in college either so I majored in Electrical Engineering. We had to take subjects like Humanities and American Institutions which required a lot of reading and I struggled mightily with those. I just could not read fast enough and my comprehension was terrible. I was determined to not write any papers in college -- quite stupid as I look back on it, but this was a real fear for me and I gave in to it. 

My first course in Electrical Engineering was early proof that I was not going to be a successful engineer either so I switched to Math, a subject that I was good, very good, but not great at. I did make it through college without writing any papers and stayed for graduate school in Math. I took every course but one for the PhD but somewhere in here I discovered Ceramics, got my Master's degree in Math, and began to study Ceramics. I did have to write a Master's thesis -- On the Structure of Pre-P-Rings -- a subject that I could not tell you one thing about today. Well maybe one but not much.

I went to graduate school in Ceramics at The University of South Florida in Tampa and got an MFA in 1972. I had to write a thesis -- Some Structural Possibilities for Smoked Raku -- and so I got 3 degrees writing only two papers. Ten years of college -- combined writing under 40 pages.

As I look back on this attitude I find it to be incredibly short sighted. It's very difficult for me to sit down and express myself and organize my thoughts in a cogent way. I also struggle with organizing my workday and the overall management of my time. It's about seeing the "forest" and the "trees" at the same time, and I tend to see one or the other, but not both. I think the two things -- that is: the inability to write and the inability to manage my time and resources -- are linked to a place in the mind which is just underdeveloped.

My wife Anne has a degree in English -- actually the subdegree is called "Creative Writing and Linguistics" from UF here and she is quite a talented writer. See an Example. She is also a good organizer and manager. 

This blog is my first attempt to overcome this shadowy past. Hopefully the writing will improve as I become more practiced. But mostly I hope to achieve a new level of organization and consciousness through written expression. 


Crafter of Khnum said...

I'm enjoying everything you are writing. I tend to have a colloquial style, and at this point in my life (only 47 now) I'm done being worried about "if it's good enough" anymore. I always figure that the bottom line is to communicate effectively, so if you make your point, then you did it correctly. My degree and background are also technical, and not writing intensive.

The secret I learned back in my University days was to keep things simple. Things have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most people can only cogitate on about three things at a time, so I limit the main topic to three points if I can. Other than that, I just reread my writing(sometimes out loud) to see how it flows.

Judy Shreve said...

I enjoy your writing - your way of expressing is clear & to the point. But what a great idea to blog as a way of writing more. All of us benefit from reading other ways to solve problems - this clay blogging community is great.

anonymous julie said...

Your commentary here is pretty well-expressed.

In terms of organizing, my dad taught me the time-honored tradition that his dad taught him: start by making a list. I still do that constantly, to keep from being overwhelmed by the innumerable details that my job requires me to handle.


Hollis Engley said...

Sounds to me like you're writing pretty well, John. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.
College Research Papers