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Homework

Please excuse my two-week absence, dear reader. A big story fell into my lap, one I cannot ignore. It will take time to understand all the components of the story—not to be revealed here, not to be revealed now—and I'll have to continue researching and interviewing for a while, until Thanksgiving most definitely, perhaps longer. In other words, I have to do my homework before I begin writing. This can be both frustrating and exciting. Frustrating because I can't wait to begin writing; exciting because the project interests me so much that I awake in the mornings with paragraphs in my head. I rush into the kitchen, put the kettle up to boil, pull out a scratch pad and scribble. Usually more questions are raised; I make lists. Sometimes a sink hole in the story becomes a chasm that begs for repair. It was not evident the day before, but now it glares, demanding attention and renewed energy.

My students know that I am a working writer, not just a professor, and that I use my own struggles and writing life as example for them to emulate or reject; it's up to them, of course. And what I am modelling here, I hope, is the necessity of raising one’s knowledge base, another phrase to describe doing one’s homework. Because of our increasing reliance on Wikipedia, raising our knowledge base is not as obvious as it seems. Convenient, fast, helpful, it is always best to follow up on all the leads embedded in a site, to ask one more question, and read one more article.

How do we know when our homework is done? That’s difficult to answer because in a way it never is. Perhaps we’ve got a deadline, or come to a dead end in our research, or feel that the armature of the story has surfaced. Okay, good, time to gather our thoughts, and write.

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