Tuesday, June 3, 2008


My second year of university finally comes to an end this week. Like the Democratic Party nomination process, it has dragged on for far too long, with my last lecture actually having taken place more than a month ago. In the interim I have had to try to stay mentally in tune for exams.

The exam process in Britain is comically archaic, placing massive groups of students into large halls and gymnasiums to sit in uncomfortable chairs and scribble out essay questions for two hours. It is an unnecessarily stressful set-up that forces me to develop ridiculous patterns and superstitions similar to when I played sports. You know, the "I always wear these socks and I put them on in this exact way" sort of thing. Before every exam I have to do 100 push-ups and 300 stomach crunches, eat two pieces of toast, and text Fflur; I buy a £1.03 bottle of water at the Somerfield, wear jeans and a T-shirt, come to the exam equipped with three black ink Bic Cristal pens, and keep my phone in my pocket (even though they tell me not to).

So far this technique has been relatively effective -- I don't feel that I've tanked on any of the exams. There was a time when I had hoped to achieve stunningly high marks, but that desire has subsided somewhat now that I am less gung-ho about carrying on to earn a PhD. I had been considering that route earlier in the year but then went to speak to my advisor about it. In talking to her I made a flippant remark that perhaps my idea for a PhD project would work better as a chincy TV programme and she laughed a little too revealingly.

The nature of Welsh society is such that it's probable my account of our meeting would get back to my advisor, so I want to stress that she did not say anything to put me off the idea. But something about the meeting -- possibly just the act of explaining my project to another person -- caused me to lose some of my fire for PhD work.

The aforementioned project has now been converted into a venture that Llŷr (and maybe possibly perhaps Annie) and I will tackle next summer.

But first there is this summer, which will be occupied by the writing of a book that you probably won't read. Tentatively titled "Cwrw Am Ddim; a rhesymau eraill i ddysgu'r iaith" (a), it is the non-fiction account of my experiences learning Welsh, moving to Wales, etc. I am attempting to write it in a more prose style, a la Dave Eggers, with the ambition of carrying on to write fiction in the future.

I had written an outline about a year ago but really only started in on the thing last week, with most of that time being used to restructure the 25-page outline. I have no idea whether 25 pages is a lot or a little for an outline. Considering that everything else I have ever written has been sans outline, it feels like quite a lot. Note, however, that everything else I have ever written remains unpublished.

(a) "Free Beer; and other reasons to learn Welsh"


Annie said...

25 pages would be a "treatment". An "outline" is about one page, a "synopsis" is about a paragraph (have I got that in the right order?) and a tagline is a single line, as you already know.

Rob said...

Everything I've written is also unpublished, but in my case with reason.
BTW: i consider myself a rebel against over-strict or unnecessary rules about grammar and speling (get it?)...
But I'm still trying to get in a happy place about "chincy", which came from chintz (fake silk) -> chintzy -> and now, chincy.
Anyway, this post did not add anything to the world, but nevertheless it will now be preserved on various webservers, probably forever. It's cool to have my thoughts immortalized; too bad they weren't more profound.
Can you tell I should be working right now?

Chris Cope said...

Annie -- I think you got those right, but those are publishing terms. For the purposes of the author it's an outline.

Bryan -- I just didn't know how to spell the word. I'll try to remember chintzy in the future.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you guys are finished already! We still have 8 weeks left, bah humbug.

Also: what are exams like in the US? Oddly, I used to quite like the sitting-in-a-big-hall type of exams. Knowing that there was nothing more I could do to prepare used to have a calming effect on me, so much so that I used to write ridiculous, devil-may-care answers on my paper. I am a twit.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Sitting-in-a-big-hall exams would sometimes happen to me at UC Berkeley, but it's a public university and therefore enormous...this gave me some flashbacks, I have to say...but I'll agree--I'm not bad at those exams. But I still have yet to publish anything significant. Go figure.