Writing exercise

I haven’t written much lately 1) because I’ve been very busy and 2) not much has been happening. What do I mean by “not much”? I mean that I have spent the past several weeks between work and thesis, work and thesis, which not only leaves very little energy left for blogging. but also that I’m starting to few sorry for my ever so faithful readers, reading post after post about Ester trying to be less self-absorbed and failing miserably (ok, so maybe you haven’t been that faithful a reader — I don’t blame you).

But 1) having gone back to the gym after five weeks of thoroughly sedentary life, I was reminded that “very busy” is often a sign that my priorities need readjustment. Besides, endorphines (positive reinforcement) plus sore muscles (negative reinforcement) make me promise myself never ever let so much time go by without exercising. And physical exercise and writing exercise follow similar principles.  

2) having recently watched “Stranger than Fiction” I was reminded that no life is so uneventful that absolutely no story can be written about it — not even my own. So here’s another dose of Ester being unabashedly self-absorbed.


May 24, a lovely summery saturday, saw me put together a reading list consisting of 87 items. An entire sunny Saturday spent in the basement of the OISE library (not that I would have known whether it was sunny or not — for all that I knew 3 o’clock might have been AM or PM, and I wouldn’t have known the difference). What was I doing?  I was checking every volume of a certain periodical, to see all that they had published that might be relevant to my thesis — relevance being sometimes a difficult concept to measure, especially from the title alone. The online searches and databasis hadn’t been very satisfactory, so I decided to take matters with my own hands — literally rolling up my sleeves and getting down to work.

After compiling the list, which was a much harder ordeal than I had expected, I thought that the rest would be relatively easy: I just had to read all the articles, checking them off my list one by one. Given that each article was about 5-7 pages long, and I’m quite a fast reader, I thought that a week or two would be more than enough to read what I thought were aproximately 500 pages — with time to spare to write a report about all this reading.

Gross underestimation. First, because you’d think that 1 item = 1 article, but that equation didn’t always prove correct. In some cases, the item read something like “all of issue 13.3” which could be forty, or even eighty pages (if a double issue).

Second, because those 5-7 pages weren’t really standard pages, of the type that you can fit two side by side on a letter-size sheet oriented horizontally. In fact, each of these pages occupied a full letter-size sheet (“portrait”, instead of “landscape”), with three columns each page, and very tiny print. Which actually meant that each page was actually three, and a 5-7 page article was really a 15-21 page article squeezed in 5-7 pages. Consequently, the approximately 500 pages really felt more like 1,500…

So I took a deep breath, a red pen, a cup of coffee, shut off my cell phone and my social life, and dived into it, pretending it was just like marking.  In the process, I made several discoveries.

1. Even though 1,500 pages can be squeezed into 500, 500 pages are still a lot of pages to photocopy, in terms of time, money (@10 cents a page = 50 bucks!) and, most importantly, wrist action.   I got particularly stingy when the article didn’t even turn out to be good, and the only satisfaction it could provide me was the checking off of another item on my list. And as this journal does not circulate, I decided therefore to spend as much time in the library as possible, and only photocopy those items that really turn out to be worth keeping.  

2. However, this periodical is only available at the OISE library, which has reduced hours in the summer: it closes at 8pm Mon-Thurs; 5pm Fri-Sat; and it does not open on Sundays. Given that I work until 4pm Mon-Fri, I’ve had to be very strategic about getting enough library hours every week.  More than once I was interrupted in the middle of my reading or in the process of photocopying an article: “Ma’am, the library is now closed, you have to leave!” “But I’ve only got three more pages to go!” “Ma’am, please, you have to leave now!” “But… but….”

3. Coffee shops are very bizarre places when observed with attention and regularity. Most people’s experience of coffee shops — and up to two months ago I belonged to this majority of people — either does not go there very often, or go often enough, but do not stay for very long. That is, some may go every day for years, but just get their order and leave, while others may go and stay for a couple of hours, but not do so very often. There is also the attention factor, which gets maximized if one is unnacompanied. This is all to say that the situations that I witnessed these past five weeks spending 2-3 hours a day, six days a week, at different coffee shops would render pretty interesting stories. Which I may get to write about in the near future. Or not.  

4. A few days ago, I was combing my hair when I discovered some red marks on my scalp. I got worried for a few seconds: was that blood? After examining my head as carefully as I could (very hard to examine one’s own scalp) I realized that the marks were made by red pen… I have the habit of scratching my head when I read, which often gives my hair the appearance of a lion’s mane. But I’d never done that with a red pen in my hand — at least not that I was ever aware of. Being in a hurry to go out, I tried to change my hairdo so as to hide every trace of scalp doodling. Which would have been an excellent solution to this problem, were it not for the fact that I had actually doodled all over my head…

This is all an extremely round about way to say that this weekend I checked off the last item on my list! Admittedly, it took me five weeks, instead of one or two. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get to celebrate it — on the contrary, it makes it all the more worth-celebrating for being over! The only “however” in this celebration is that now I have to write a report about all this reading, and said report is due Friday… Unfortunately,  the time and energy I had allotted to this project has already been exhausted in the process of the reading alone. Which means that I now have to completely rethink this project’s mental-emotional-physical-chronological budget. 

And all this writing was just to explain why I have no energy left for writing… Poor reader… let me give you and I a break, before I drag us both into utter exhaustion…


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