Serial Consulting

As expected, today’s Writing Center work was the most demanding yet–eight
appointments in seven hours (with a brief break for lunch). I don’t
mention it to complain. Rather, in those five-minute lapses between
appointments I was thinking of the surprise and exhilaration in the unknown of
what was to come. What is in store? How long will it take to get our
bearings and decide what to do next?

Stacked appointments require a generalist’s deftness (even if one is not
steadily capable of this)–there are great leaps from this to that, from one
thing to another. A first and second appointment do not make the third
appointment easier. But the language from the previous hour re-surfaces
again and again in subconscious performance residue: how many times did I say
"prime" or "primes" between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.? Three? Four? Maybe too
many, as if in caught in a strange loop, some phrase or concept pops up
unexpectedly in fits of over-talking while searching for the elusive right
words. Serial consulting: in certain ways it’s like being locked in the media closet with
a flickering television set all day, sometimes fancying coherence and
intelligibility, sometimes doubting whether this or that thing fits with this or
that other thing, and sometimes marveling at the great range of possible
directions lurking everywhere in a draft.

Now I can’t remember them all: a "professional statement" for a
made-for-television movie production internship, an essay on music as argument,
a comparison of Hindu epics, Rubin Carter as inspiration for law school,
contending worldviews between Hmong Brahmanism and Western medicine, a close
reading of Huck Finn (requiring specific references to ‘semiotics’, ‘reader’,
and ‘interpretation’), early planning and exploration on a five-page piece that
will get at gender roles, mass media and the Cold War, and, finally, a
discussion of Obama’s vague references to "they" in the Iowa victory speech. At
the end of it, two senses: one is a kind of merry-go-all-directions spinning
around–the disorientation in rapid sequence conversations engaging all of this;
the other is a (cloudy) surprise at the degree to which a long string of
consulting appointments is like drilling a core sample of the curriculum (as if
boring into a glacier).


  1. Ahhh… you’re describing what I miss so much about the Writing Center–learning bits of everything. (Too bad my university was too cheap to support my department’s attempt at a writing center…)

  2. Too bad about the funding. It has been a good experience so far this semester, but I’m not sure whether I’ll continue with the seven-hour Fridays if I pick up WC work again in the summer or fall. Shorter stints are less tiring (a truism, I know, but one I have been slow to accept).

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