Thursday, January 7, 2010

And the New Age begins

Okay, "New Age" is overstating it. It's a new phase in a continuing life. I've taken to calling myself "semi-retired." I'm no longer looking for a full-time job. In fact I don't even want one any more. I'm hoping for a 2/5 part-time reference job to come open at Dayton Metro Library, and with that I would consider myself set indefinitely. Of course only God knows how long I will be able to work, and He is keeping that datum confidential. That's cool. But my hope is to be actively working until age 70, give or take a couple of years. If I can do that, working 20-30 hours a week, I'll have time for plenty of fun stuff.

My idea of fun stuff has changed lately, though. 8 or 10 years ago, I thought in terms of progamming - making games, web sites, that sort of thing. But after the layoff, when I took some web programming courses at Sinclair, I realized that I don't have enough of what Betty calls "design sense." Then I went to Library school and completed my Master of Library and Information Science degree. (Man, I LOVE writing the whole thing out like that!) I am now a Master! But in the course of that coursework, I found out something new - I can write!

This is not exactly new. In my undergraduate work, especially at Miami U. when I was doing mostly Common Curriculum courses, I wrote some stuff I was rather proud of. I sometimes wonder if any of it survives in our attic. If not it may be just as well; memory tends to put a brighter polish on things than they had on their own. But I didn't love the process of writing. At least part of this was deadline pressure. I had to turn in some stuff that I knew would be better with a few more days to work on it. Later at Wright State, when I had free electives to choose, I went for either science or philosophy, not English.

Looking back, I wonder how much difference it would have made if I had had modern technology. I particularly remember a paper at Miami on Chaucer's The Pardoner's Tale. As I was near the end, I realized that Chaucer had slipped in an excuse for the Pardoner's bad behavior, and used that for a conclusion. Going back to moderate my castigation of his hypocrisy would have meant retyping the whole essay. So I got (justifiably) taken off for changing directions so abruptly at the end. With a word processor, I might have had the time to correct things. But that was the days of typewriters - once you type it, buddy, there it sits. Correcting a sentence meant correcting a page. And adding a sentence meant retyping everything that came after it.

So when I finally started on a for-real master's degree, I was worried. Sure, I could write better than almost any computer geek I knew, but that's a really low standard. A large majority of them may be smart, even ingenious, where logic and technology are concerned, but very few can put together a coherent sentence. Going in to Library school, knowing that most of the students were liberal arts majors, especially English and History, I was afraid of being in over my head. When Prof. Boon told me that she liked my writing, I was stunned.

So three things have combined to change my attitude toward writing. Having graduated, I can write without deadlines. Technology has made editing and polishing much easier and faster. And most important, someone who knows writing thinks that I can write well! So I'm planning to spend a fair amount of my new free time in writing. I just started my memoirs; that always seems like an easy way in to writing. Write what you know, they all say. More to come, God willing.