So I'm reflecting this week on the influence Jimmy Britton and Nancy Martin have had on my teaching practice. Later this week I'm headed for New York City for the National Council of Teachers of English Convention and plan to participate in a round table discussion that celebrates New York University such luminaries in the English Education department as Britton and Martin. I had the opportunity to have Jimmy Britton and Nancy Martin as tutors during the Oxford Study Abroad Program for English Education.
As tutors neither never lectured in this program; they had you over for Scotch on the rocks and talked with you. Conversation as learning, learning as conversation.
I remember showing Nancy a handmade book project I put together in response to our group's having seen an RSC production of Romeo and Juliet. It was something I called, "Risk: Mercutio's View of Verona." It was a response that explored the portrayal of Mercutio as a victim of the feud, reading the interpretation of the actor's take as a gay, lighthearted friend of Romeo and his poignant end, essentially that of a victim of a societal events he criticized, participated in but from from which the pundit was marginalized. To accomplish this I layered contemporary graphics clipped from London event flyers and newspapers with lines from Mercutio. It was as esoteric as it was powerful. I was not sure what Nancy thought about the work, in fact, I don't remember her ever passing judgment. As she was looking it over, I wondered whether she "got it." She was in her 70s and the work dealt with plague, intimacy, fantasy, and political injustices in some very esoteric and aesthetic manners. I was unsure, that is, until she finally noticed a part that I knew was weak. She noted, "This page doesn't really fit with the others, does it?" I thought, "Wow! Nancy gets text. Any text. Full stop."
Not to miss the chance in this tutorial, I asked her what she—the one who had already spent more than half-a-century researching the topic—thought was the most important thing about writing. She scoffed at the question, at first. "Charles, oh, I can't answer that." After a pause she reflected that "maybe it is that the most important thing is the writer is happy with what he or she has written." She went on to say of course there are times when we aren't completely satisfied, we know we can do better, but for now at least, it's all right.
Not bad advice for a blogger, I think. Blogging, regularly does not allow the sort of revision process of "sleep on it" or "see how it sounds in a week." Although I must admit a good amount of backspacing, cutting-and-pasting, and on-screen rewrites, blogging means getting thoughts down and hitting the publish key without much of a gestation period.
Perhaps I was just fooling myself with those polished drafts of yore. Writing is never final, right? A blog post connotes a tentative, idea-floating aspect—a fly in amber, in a sediment of chronological posts.
Being happy, having something good enough for now, must be all right.
Image: Nancy Martin and me