A Lesson From a Carpenter

B picStudents from many parts of the world and many professions attend Hopkinsville Community College at the Fort Campbell campus. One is a seasoned carpenter, probably close to forty, who is artistic about his work, as his memoir paper at the beginning of the course had showed. No element of the weather or observation of human nature gets missed by this poet hidden inside of a carpenter who never went to college until now, who has learned though how to make boards and nails into a craft as well as a job.

Reading about his experiences, houses became literary, and tradesmen classic characters. But isn’t this what drama does, either on paper or in film or television? Despite extravagances or the unlikely, most characters emerge nonetheless from ordinary life and grow larger than life by the eye that sees them this way.English: 1942 photograph of Carpenter at work ...

Switch now to a lesson on how to cite sources in a draft theme and imagine the instructor at the board with the dry erase marker, trying to convey a strategy for taking information bytes from reference articles in order to integrate them into a draft while maintaining a writing voice that doesn’t lose itself amidst all the borrowed information. What will this instructor do?

In 1916, Northey showed how to calculate the a...

Before class, he had been driving along, enjoying farmland views on a rural road, when bam!—the carpenter comes to mind, and integrating source information becomes an artistic venture and not a tedious duty. Later, dry erase marker in hand, he turns to the class; “There’s a carpenter in the class. Can anyone guess who it is?” Silence ensues uncomfortable seconds until a front row student turns, and pointing to the seasoned looking man with the ball hat on, says, “I think it’s him.” She is correct.

Carpenters, Frankford EL Construction, 1913

The instructor then goes into a tribute to the carpenter’s memoir on how construction is an art and then uses that as an analogy for constructing quality theme style with source information worked in. It takes artistic skills, voice, and management to work sources in and make the feel and flow of a draft become natural—make it livable and solid—inviting and credible.

200510 carpenter's tools

200510 carpenter’s tools (Photo credit: iambents)

Students (more than he anticipated) take this in. The analogy stretches to engineering—how to engineer a research paper—then back to carpentry and how to keep the paper from sounding lumpy, mismatched, without drywall or a roof as it were.

Even for the instructor, a new moment of insight takes place. The hitherto boring has gained an elevated and appreciated level of craft. It’s how one sees it, even if a bit late.

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