Friday, 26 February 2016
I have been spending a bit of time reading and thinking about writing, as well as actually doing some of the stuff.
I have been listening to an audiobook of Dorothea Brande, and doing my 750 words each day.
I have also been reading Julia Cameron, the creative way, and quite a lot of Boice, especially professors as writers, but also some of his papers.
I have also been doing my fair bit of writing and editing, so much that I had to do some hand saving dictation yesterday evening,
Next week I will be upping the ante slightly, by starting off my writing Tuesday's. I am booking a room each Tuesday, ordering in tea, coffee fruit and lunch, and then inviting all and sundry to join me for writing tasks through the day.
On top of that I am going to take a closer look at Bouce's plan for generative writing, and combine it with Brande's idea of a daily timetabled short writing slot, in addition to my lately rather peripatetic, "morning pages'
So... That is the plan, let's see how it goes.
Saturday, 13 February 2016
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research into the concept of flow have, to my mind, echoes in many other models of human behaviour.
I am much interested in hypnosis and the ability to identify, create, access and replicate 'states'. I find transcripts or accounts of hypnotic interventions fascinating and have been particularly inspired by the work of Milton Erikson.
My recent thoughts and observations are stimulated by learning and teaching about writing, and in practicing and exploring writing myself.
They are also stimulated by the practice of running to which I have returned with renewed determination. Thus my days have shape imposed by goals and objectives to write, to run and to understand and live well.
What I observe are many different possible routes to being and understanding, the better known being selected or gaining popularity when their values also chime with the dominant or preferred values of the 'local' cultures.
Thus writing down the bones- a zen inflected meditation on writing reflects the era when author Natalie Goldberg made choices and became a zen practitioner and student.
Kerouac's rules for writers, came from his era. Hippy values, New Romantics, beatniks, teddy boys, macrobiotics, Pilates, low carb, kinesthetics, NLP, Dukan, Picketty, anti austerity, neo liberalism, mindfulness, spiritualism, temperance, encounter, psycho-dynamics, Methodism, buddism each belief set, trend or phase has a role as a shorthand of communication. But each shorthand can be either a help or a hindrance to communication. It is a local phenomenon in time, space and place.
I use local rather particularly, in the sense of proximate/proximal. The system of ideas which is the closest to an individual at any time.
Erikson was famous for making change happen by going with the flow but also across the flow. His handshake induction brought about trance by interrupting routine interactions. Yet novice hypnotised most often fail when they do not effectively mirror and amplify the patterns of their subjects.
If mass movements succeed it is perhaps because they do succeed in mirroring and amplifying widely held beliefs, amplified either by media or circumstance.
Csikszentmihalyi argues that young people can find flow through music and it seems to me that the younger we are the smaller will be the range of possible proximate cultures or practices through which to access flow. The observation is that they find that for themselves.
In teaching there is an assumption that the teacher will find things for the stident. Furthermore, 'good' teaching will be obvious because all that is needed is found and the students are happy with the outcome. The challenge, for a teacher, I believe, is trying to motivate or communicate possible routes to flow to many individuals, each of a different generation or culture. How can I find points of common understanding which can serve as channels for real communication. How will each one find their state of flow?
Here I use the term generation only to indicate difference - and I am not totally happy with the word. It implies a false difference mediate by age. Yet our real age is surely a proxy for our experience, and within and across generations such age will vary widely. Recognising individual and common humanity might be better. Humanity is something we all hold in common. It is the most valuable communication channel. But then I stumble on culture and cultural experience.
I read what some people find inspirational
And I observe, that for me, like a clumsy hypnotic script, they do not quite work.
Earl Nightingale, the simplest secret .. Yes .. But. Tom Peters, yes but, Virginia Wolf, yes but, Karl Marx, yes but always I find , I don't hold the same set of values, or assumptions in common.
I despair of being an English speaker because too much of what I read or watch or hear is overladen with alien 'US' cultural references and assumptions. And I tire of the adjustments and baulk at the imperialism and understand, perhaps, other antagonisms that exist. But then again, I understand and can translate. After all I am a woman living in a world predicated on men's assumptions- which is probably even more tiresome.
I am accomplished, I know how to use alien texts, but will my students ..And I am reminded that in the classroom I need to be an Erikson, expertly mirroring and modelling but also interrupting to make change happen. And most importantly, how will I ever find out.
Friday, 12 February 2016
A good few years ago I ran a workshop titled What Went Wrong. The essential premise was that if we are researching interventions that make change happen we need to record and analyse our failures as much as if not more carefully than our success.
However, academia and popular media likes heroic narrative and if failure is recorded it is too often used as a whipping boy.
The paradox for academia and research is that our business is learning, and any simple observation of human learning will tell us that we appear to be built to learn from failure.
Perhaps I should turn the title on its head and call it Make More Mistakes. I am sent back to reconsider the quote of William McIlvanney on honour and success. A man who wrote the books he wanted keeping his character true rather than signing a book series. I am also reflecting on Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones with the emphasis she places on practice writing. Most of all I am thinking about our students who make mistakes and sometimes find that hard to accept. Or who are terrified of making mistakes before the event - exam stress, life stress.
Is academia suffering from a bad case of the Emperors Clothes? We are writing failure out of the story and the cost is progress. Alongside we breed a culture of ungiving arrogance. The implicit knowledge that failure exists and has s purpose makes liars of us all, and out university culture is much the poorer for that lie.