Focus on your Horizon

I Saw a Man Pursuing the horizon

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never — “

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.

-Stephen Crane

I first encountered Stephen Crane in my American Lit II course about my junior year of college. The assignment was to read and respond to his short story “The Open Boat.” I loved it. The story is about 4 guys who are in a lifeboat after they get in a shipwreck. This is based on a true story. The author (Crane) was on a ship called the Commodore. On New Years Eve, the ship crashed and he was in a lifeboat trying to survive for three days. I began searching for more of Crane’s work and information on him as well. A very interesting guy.

I came across the poem above during my research and immediately connected with it. I have been on my own journey that to me has seemed impossible until now. My horizon has been completing my education and starting a career that I’ve always wanted to do and felt like I was supposed to do. After so many years of hard work and a lot of sacrifice on my part and even more by my wife and family, I have reached my horizon. I will graduate in 13 days and I have already signed a contract to begin teaching 7th grade English beginning in January.

Looking back at my long voyage, I remember those naysayers (mostly my inner demons) telling me “it is futile,” and that I will never be able to reach my goal, my destination, my horizon. I chose not to listen to them. I kept my head down, my trusty steed pointed in the same direction, and tried my best to enjoy every minute of it.

My advice to those that are on their own journey: Stay focused on the end goal; bring along as many friends and family as possible, for they will be valuable assets; and most of all RUN ON!!

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Whitman fan!!

I have become a Walt Whitman fan over the last week. I took time to read through some of his poetry in his Leaves of Grass. I like his free verse style and the way he captures a scene and puts the reader right there. It’s magical! His poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is captivating. I was skeptical of it after the first stanza, but by the third I felt as if I were there traveling with him. Towards the end, I could see the smirk on his face as he bragged about achieving his purpose of giving me the feeling that he was with me, as if he had travelled through time to the very moment I was reading it and imagining being there and feeling and thinking of the exact things he wanted me to.

The poem “I Sing the Body Electric” is by far my favorite right now. I love this poem for many reasons, but I initially read it because of Bull Durham. Bull Durham is my favorite movie of all time. I could easily watch it over and over, especially in mid to late February–that is when MLB players report to spring training. Susan Sarandon reads this poem the first night with “Nuke” (Tim Robbins) instead of having sex. However, after reading the poem for myself, that moment in the movie seems much more erotic–and that’s even with Nuke bieng tied up. Of course, her sexy tone in that movie makes it that much better. I could definitely slight sex for that to be read to me the way she reads it.

I know that I’m not quoting any of the lines in the works, this is because I want everyone that is unfamiliar with Whitman to get that initial personal feeling without any more insight. I will suggest a little background knowledge of Whitman and the time in which he wrote. This will give you a better sense of his compassion for the changing world around him.

As always, feel free to comment on how you feel about Whitman. And, by all means, suggest your favorite of his works and why, because I will definitely give them a read if I haven’t already.

Brief Quote to Ponder

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

-Mark Twain

Love me some Twain! I really like this quote. I like to take a quote like this and apply it to as many things in my life as I can. Of course I apply it to my writing, but I can also use it with the time I spend with my kids–and sometimes my wife, and sometimes with dinner–if I have to.

Found a gem, a model for teaching, and something else to research

Saturday, Nov. 10th my wife and I, along with the kids, went walking downtown. Downtown Dickson still has its small town charm and vintage look. And for those who have never walked through an old downtown square or in Dickson’s case a main street, I suggest you do so. It’s very inviting. Now that I’ve set the scene, let me continue.

We entered a store that has not been there long, and one that we’ve never gone into. It has very old and vintage merchandise, second and even third hand products. All of which are very affordable. It took me about ten or so minutes to get to the back of the store because of the VHS and DVD collection in the front. The store also had a huge selection of old hand-dial TV sets. That’s right, no remote available. My eleven year old son was amazed that TV’s were made without remotes. I also spent five or so minutes explaining to him how awesome the original Nintendo game system was. He couldn’t imagine it.

Well, finally at the back wall of the store was an extensive stock of books. All paperbacks were just 50 cents or you could buy three for $1. The books ranged from all kinds of fiction across many decades to academic anthologies and writing manuals. Being a current student and future teacher (not to mention nerd and a weird obsession over books on writing), I scanned through the anthologies and manuals. I found three books, which I bought for a dollar that I couldn’t walk away from without taking. And as soon as I got a chance I started reading.

I found one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays in A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. The essay: “On Education.” I have hardly read any Emerson in my life, but after reading this essay and some research of other scholarly writings on it, I will definitely be reading more. The essay was originally a speech which Emerson delivered to graduating classes primarily in the 1860’s. It was eventually published after his death. I am not going to write about the entire speech, but rather only one paragraph. Emerson gives an incredible example for teachers to think about when teaching. He says “to import into Education the wisdom of life” and to “adopt the pace of Nature,” which is “patience” (256). I know that time is always a factor in schools now-a-days and that teachers have so many kids to instruct and patience is one of the last things on their minds, but thinking about it over a longer period may be beneficial.

Emerson, in this one paragraph, talks about a “naturalist” and how he goes into the forest knowing he will scare away those animals he wants to see, yet sits quietly and with “patience” allows the wildlife to become comfortable with his presence. “They lose their fear” and are even curious as to what he is, or why he’s there (257). As teachers give their lessons sometimes knowing that not all students will catch on to what’s being taught, with patience and repetition the student will eventually come around and “volunteer some degree of advances towards fellowship and good understanding” (257). I really like this metaphor. Emerson asks “can we not wait for him as Nature [does]?” (257). He explains that if we were to instill patience in our teachings than we could see the potential within the student gradually appear. The best part of the paragraph, which I have to quote in full, is: “He has a secret; wonderful methods in him; he is—every child—a new style of man; give him time and opportunity” (257). Each of us was once in the shoes of those we teach. Maybe we were farther along than our students or, in my case, not nearly as advanced. We must slow down the process sometimes and let sink in what is imperative to understand. Plus, let them teach us. As we teach we are also learning how our students learn. We can take this learning and apply it to future lessons and future learning.

Needless to say, I loved the essay and look forward to doing further research on Emerson (as time permits) and the value of patience in teaching.

As always, any comments or suggestions are welcomed!

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Emerson, Ralph W. “On Education.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College

Writers. 7th Edition. Lee A. Jacobus. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. 2006. 251-

258. Print.

My week and a random writing thought

Wow, this last week was crazy. Two essays, one review, and my first news article for the local paper all were due. That’s not even mentioning that I had a Praxis exam this week too. I love to write. I really do. But I don’t like the rush sometimes. I edit as I write, which makes for slower writing. I had to put that aside this week in order to just get it done. Although it was tough, I found out I can write without all the editing…sort of.

That being said, I am forcing myself from now on to write first and edit second. The only thing I will change as I write is misspelled words. That seems to be too tough of a habit. Plus, I do most/all my writing on my laptop which makes for quick delete and replace. There are exercises that will help free the writer from the editor. One of my absolute favorite books on writing (in particular free-writing) is Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. The sections in the book are quick and easy to read. It’s informative and inspiring and most of all motivating. A must read for any writer.

I usually go back to this book before any other when I want motivation for writing. Most importantly, I just write. I try to just write a good sentence about anything and then another one that may or may not be related to the first one.

This is pretty much how this post was written. I had no idea what to write, but I knew I wanted to write something. And now I want to go read some of that book.

Oh and I will post about Poe hopefully soon. I think there will be a post about Hawthorne too.

What’s been happening

I have been extremely busy (for my standards; which are stretching) over the past couple of months. The fall semester started. I am taking three Lit courses and expository writing. I was only supposed to have two Lit courses but an online class that I’ve been taking through LSU ended up being more involved than expected.

I am writing all the time now it seems. But that is not a bad thing. I enjoy it. And I can tell I’m getting better at it. I am able to focus and get started quicker than I used to. And the length of certain assignments do not phase me like they used to. I don’t pay attention to word count or pages. I just write until I feel I covered the topic with enough information.

I may be working for my local newspaper in the next month. I spoke with a very nice reporter there and she told me some of the things they would like to see in the paper. I hope to talk to another staff writer this week and maybe even the editor. Until then, I’m researching some ideas for articles that could be printed for certain places in the paper where they lack information, as explained to me by that nice reporter woman.

Beat Procrastination 6 Ways

Beat Procrastination, 6 ways

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We all procrastinate. Don’t say you don’t or have never, because we all know at some point, or in my case a lot of points, we sit down flip open the laptop and surf through the barrage of social networks or turn on the tv and cruise through just about every channel we pay for on satellite.

And that laundry room that’s overflowing with clothes, or that sink full of dishes, or that lawn that’s starting to look more like a hay field sits in waiting because you just can’t make yourself start.

Just like any type of writing or exercise routine, starting is the hardest part.

I might be the guiltiest out of any one around when it comes to procrastination. (Just ask my wife)

Yep, yep. That’d be me. I’m mostly a house hubby. I am a full-time student and I work construction when work is there. But my main title starts with stay-at-home. I enjoy it. But I tend to let the house go at times. And with four children, that just can’t happen.

So I’ve been working on a list.

A list that will beat the procrastination bug, disease, virus, syndrome, disorder … you get my point. A list to vault myself (and others like me) into action.

This list could, obviously go on and on and on, so I’m just going to name off a few that sound really good to me.

Oh yea, this is not a tried and true list.

I’m just now creating it. You can probably say I’m procrastinating right now by making it. You’d probably be right. (My wife would agree)

Here we go:

1. Get up and move!

That’s right! Simple as that. Just start already. If it’s laundry, start by picking up the clothes in the floor of the bathroom. Oh, your family uses baskets? Well then, take the baskets to the laundry room. If it’s mowing the yard, start by cleaning the yard; pick up those things that you don’t need to run over. In my case, it’s toys. The point is, just get moving.

2. Be an early bird.

The earlier in the day you start the better chance you have of finishing. In my case, I love the early mornings. So it’s easy for me to get up and get going. And in this house, getting up first is the most peaceful part of my day. But you don’t have to get up early, just start early in your day. If you normally wake up and noon, then by all means, start at noon. Just don’t give yourself a chance to think of other things to do besides what you need to do.

3. Start small.

Just like Mel Gibson told his son in the movie The Patriot, “Aim small, miss small.” Set your sights on one of the smaller tasks you have. Finishing something quickly will build confidence and get the juices flowing in the right direction. Hopefully. Knock out the small stuff and build up to the bigger jobs.

4. Make a list

Obvious, right? Well, then do it! Remember to start small. Maybe even set time blocks for certain things. That may help with motivation, like beating the clock and winning a prize, i.e. a 5 minute break, or ice cream, or just a pat on the back because it’s just you and the clock. But don’t force yourself to stick to those times if the job’s not done.

5. Don’t strive for perfection.

Seriously, if you (or I) were perfect we wouldn’t procrastinate or make lists about how not to procrastinate. Just get the job done, start to finish. Of course, don’t half-ass the job either. Common sense, use it.

6. Most importantly, make a playlist!

I mean how can you start if you don’t have the best intro song going at the same time? Make a list that’s roughly an hour long. Come on, that’s not too much. You know you’re going to repeat a few of those and you need a good variety. Just don’t get caught up in your own “best concert ever” in your living room, there’s still work to be done.

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I think I’ll stop the list here. That should be enough for anyone to get up and going. Plus, I’ve given you a few more things to procrastinate on. I mean you need to make that list and get the soundtrack ready. That should take most of the day. I’m going to do that and probably get started tomorrow … early.

My work … my motivation

I have worked in construction practically my entire life. My grandfather was a brick and block mason and my dad has been the same for the past 38 years! Give or take a few years as a deputy sheriff.
For those of you that don’t know much about being a block mason I guess you should look it up after you’re done reading this because I am not going into detail about it. I will tell you that it is not an easy job. You are at the mercy of mother nature. If it’s winter you’re wishing it was summer and if it’s summer you’re wishing it was winter. The material you work with is heavy and coarse. It’s dirty and sweaty and well you get my point.
I’m not complaining by any means. I enjoy working outside and being around a crazy (seriously, most are crazy) bunch of guys. It’s mostly fun, besides the work of course.
As much as I like the camaraderie and being outside, I don’t like the uncertainty. I hate knowing that the weather (by weather I mean rain and freezing weather) can determine whether I work today or not. And I’m not a salary employee so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. That’s tough on my family.
So every day when I get out there, tools in hand and sweat pouring, I realize those essays and research papers over things I really don’t want to write about, aren’t so bad. And they get me closer to my goal of teaching and out of the weather.

Diving in

Well I guess just like any kind of writing you just have to start. Dive right in and not look back. So, instead of trying to figure out how to start this blog with the right post, I’m just going to start writing.

This is probably one of the best writing tips I know of too. It comes from the best book on writing that I have ever read. And if you haven’t ever read it then I suggest you get it. It’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I have probably read this book, or at least picked it up and shot through a chapter or two so many times over the last six years. It’s a great book to get the juices flowing.

I will possibly write about writing and what I’m reading in this blog mostly. I am an English student at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. So a lot of what I’m reading will come from my classes. It’s a degree that ten years ago I would have laughed at you if you told me I should get that one. I hated my English classes when I was younger and never really picked up a book to read voluntarily until I was about twenty-seven. And even then it was short stories that I could barely get through. My stamina for reading was worse than my stamina for running. Though my running stamina is about the same, I can read just about whatever I want to now and enjoy it.

I’ve always had an interest in writing. Even in school I didn’t mind writing small essays and book reports. Although the latter meant I had to read first. I have written for the local newspaper here in my hometown. The sports section. I loved every minute of it. And I kind of hope I get the chance to do some more for them in the future.

Like I said, I’m an English student. I graduate in a year, hopefully. I want to teach. I want to be that teacher that I was too blind to see when I was in school. That teacher that tries hard to be the reason a student travels down a good path to success.

I know, now, that there were a few teachers that tried for me. But I was too caught up in baseball and mostly girls that I just didn’t notice them. So, that’s a goal of mine. To be that teacher that breaks through those walls that certain students put up and send them down a successful path soon enough where they are not playing catch up to a world that won’t slow down.

My world has flown by and catching up is very hard to do, especially when you create a life that includes four kids and a wife that works full-time. I have absolutely no regrets. My life, though hectic, is pretty freaking awesome. I’ll write about soon enough.

I’m an open book. Every word to my life is right there to be seen, read and interpreted; and I encourage discussion. How else are you going to expand your perspective on a topic if you don’t see others opinions of it? I’m just that way.

Well there you go. My first post. Some info about me and what I hope to do.

I didn’t really explain much about what the blog will do, but then again, I guess you can look at it like I left the door open for anything.