process: 48/365

When I used to study for exams, I would start with all my material spread out around me–books with underlinings and my binder or spiral notebook. Then I would review my underlinings and write down anything I needed to remember. Likely pages and pages. I would no longer need the book. Then I would read through my class notes and highlight anything I needed to remember. Next I would merge my class notes and book notes into what we would now call one document. Each instance of reading or highlighting or merging involved working with the material. So at this point I was ready to let go of the stuff I knew. An hour or so before the exam I would be down to one sheet of paper–the really really important stuff and dates or whatever I wasn’t ready to part with yet.

When the kids were little and my husband out of town, the end of the day would go like this: first all the toys put up outside and doors locked. Feed the kids. Clean up downstairs. Lights off. Upstairs for baths. Kids asleep. Me in the bed reading, one lamp on.

When I first started going to Provincetown, I would stay in Truro, the neighboring town. When you’re driving, you have to pass through Truro to get to Provincetown, which is as far as you can go on the Cape. Next I stayed in an inn on the outskirts of town. Then in the middle of town. And now, my favorite place to stay is almost as far in as you can go–in the curl of the fist.


 365 true things about me
why this daily practice

11 thoughts on “process: 48/365

  1. I wish we’d been friends when we were in High School. I wish you’d taught me how to study. But to end on a positive note, I’m so pleased I’ve ‘met’ you now, through your blog and your writing.


    • I was so happy to read your comment, Louise. After I wrote that first paragraph, I read it over and thought what a nut case and almost deleted it. But that was me alright. So nice to know you now too. I look forward to more of your comments.


  2. I’m impressed with your study method, Cynthia. Such patience, but with all the writing, then whittling down, it probably sunk in better (I know writing something manually helps me that way). What it also did, I think, was unwittingly preparing you for your writing path from first draft through revision 🙂

    It’s funny how we each have our own way to go about things—our individual processes. We can hear all the hints, tips and recommendations from all different sources, and whether or not we glean from them, we still have to make it our own in a way that works/fits.


  3. Love that final line. Also love the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated things and the refusal to write the transitions.

    It’s funny when considering your stated purpose for this project, but the more I read your posts, the more in awe I am of how much you have always understood yourself. All the travel, the discovery of landscape, the pursuit of profession and family. It’s like you’re now plotting the map of a very long, targeted search and discovery mission. I absolutely do not know–and absolutely never have known–my own mind in this kind of detail. Maybe I’d like this, maybe I’d like that. I go through the doors that open, then try to figure out if I’m in the right room (or building, even, or city). The MFA was my first really intentional, entirely self-directed journey, and trying to self-direct from then on has been very slow and tough going.

    If the empty nest has left you a bit muddled, a bit turned-around, that wouldn’t be surprising for someone who has always been so good at knowing what the next thing should be and how to manage it. Is this why it feels like you don’t know your mind? B/c you’re not completely sure which next step is the right one? If so, does that have anything to do with wanting things, now, that aren’t really about achieving goals?


    • Claire, I appreciate your thoughts here, but it’s not the empty nest that created the muddle. I could not have been more ready for this next stage. Not knowing my own mind, I’m sure, had its genesis in my overly private nature, and then things spiraled out from there, as I’ve discovered.


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