My Unprofessional Whimsy


I usually write around 500 words a day. It always begins with one sentence. An idea, a memory, something a friend has said that has made me think, or perhaps just something I’ve read that morning. There’s no process, no mapping, no formal experience to set me down an organized path. I often sit down at the keyboard with nothing and just begin to write.

A girlfriend who is a beautiful storyteller, a professional in her field, asked me a few years ago about how I mapped out my stories.  I think she was being kind, trying to make a gentle suggestion that a little organization wouldn’t go astray. I giggled at the notion that there was a plan – that I would even have the first clue about how that process would work.

This week I have to write 800 words for a tutorial essay. It’s my first university assignment in over 20 years. Part of the issue with returning to study after such a huge break is that I am incredibly scratchy on the details. I have been downloading lecture notes and reading links but it’s the structure that has me shaking in my shoes.

“Can you remember how to write correct footnotes?” I asked G yesterday.

He thought for a minute. “Yep”.

G’s time at university was not only more recent but he stayed longer, long enough to actually obtain his degree. Whereas I left university in a cloud of dust, happy to leave it to those who were a little more interested than I was. When I look back at the subjects I was doing it makes sense, I was never going to last. Economics? Math Fundamentals?  Business Studies?

An Aunt who knows me very well asked me recently “When you talk about university, when was that exactly? I can’t remember that?” I remembered going to her house for help with an essay after pulling an all-nighter at the bar, it’s probably better that she can’t remember. They weren’t my finest hours.

This time it’s different though, this time the subjects make sense, they’re of interest, topics I’d consider reading for fun. As I madly scribble notes about visual communication and tell the little travellers about the Gestalt Theory of Isomorphic Correspondence while their eyes glass over in the back seat of the car – I realize something has changed. I’m learning in a different way, this time it’s  academic learning. I require facts, quotes and rules. I can’t just sit down and kick off with a sentence.

“Are you going to be at University at the same time as we are?” the first little traveller asked with a hint of horror in her voice.

“At this rate” I said removing my headphones for the fourth time mid lecture podcast “it’s highly likely.”

Tonight I’ll head to the library in search of a nice quiet desk to write myself notes, my attempt to retain some information for more than a day. I will endeavor to search for the perfect balance of structure, rules and quotes. The consolation being that each morning I get to return here to my desk, to this page, this blog. Blank in its beginning I’ll load it full of unprofessional whimsy, and the chaotic scrawl of a heartfelt tale. Proving once again, that this really is my favourite place to be.


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