I haven’t blogged since the end of NaBloPoMo mainly because we’ve reached the almost-end of the semester and my daily to-do lists have me running in circles.
I’ve written before about the circular shape of the last month of the semester, when “there’s no stopping the madly-out-of-control merry-go-round that is the life of a writing instructor: assign it, collect it, read and comment upon it, return it…then repeat, repeat, and repeat.” This stage of the semester is entirely predictable–you revisit it twice a year, in winter and spring–but it always feels a bit surprising nevertheless. Oh, yes…here we go again!
The madly cyclic, circular loop that is the last month of any academic semester feels labyrinthine while you trudge its long and winding path. You can see the end of the semester, which seems alluringly close, but there’s no shortcut around the winding way you have to tread to get to that endpoint. Whereas you can get lost in a maze, there’s no getting lost in a labyrinth: you just have to be patient enough to keep walking, step by step, until you reach (and return from) the end.
As exhaustingly repetitive it feels as a writing instructor to keep collecting and commenting on subsequent drafts of the same semester-long research projects, the monotony of this seemingly endless feedback loop merely mirrors the repetitive tasks my students themselves are facing. For an entire semester, my Thinking & Writing and Creative Nonfiction students have been chipping away at their essays, one word (and one research source) at a time. Right about now, my students are ready to be done with their projects, and I’m ready for them to be done, too.
At times, revision feels like you’re revisiting the same ideas over and over as you pore over the stubborn knots in your thinking. The overwhelming enormity of writing a semester-long project and the sheer monotony of the effort it takes to actually do it are again labyrinthine: “The message of a labyrinth is to persevere–take the next step–keep going even if the way seems long or confusing. You will get there, and back, safely, a labyrinth seems to reassure. Take care with this next step, and peace will follow all the rest.”
It’s a lesson that’s easy to forget, even if you revisit it twice a year, every year. It’s a lesson that bears repeating not just to my students, but to myself: the end will come eventually–soon enough, but not a moment too soon–but you have to keep walking every last step to reach it.
Yes, it’s true: there’s a painted labyrinth in a parking lot off Church Street in downtown Keene…and there always seems to be at least one car parked right on top of it.