Monthly Archives: October 2012

Everything is interesting

Somebody somewhere came up with a list of habits to help one navigate life. This somebody calls these Habits of Mind (THIS somebody, me, should do some homework and give credit where credit is due. But if I did that, I’d have to stop writing this and I’m not going to stop writing this).
One of these habits is Responding with Awe & Wonder. What a wonderful habit to have, to see the world around you as though your seeing it for the first, not five-hundredth, time.
Then another someone, Kerri Smith (I can pull her name right out of the ol’ memory bank because I own one of her books: Wreck This Journal), wrote a whole book about this habit. She calls her book How to be an Explorer of the World: A Portable Life Museum. She offers a list of ways to respond with awe and wonder:
How to Be an Explorer of the World:
1. Always be looking. (Notice the ground beneath your feet.)
2. Consider everything alive and animate.
3. Everything is interesting. Look closer.
4. Alter your course often.
5. Observe for long durations (and short ones).
6. Notice the stories going on around you.
7. Make patterns. Make connections.
8. Document your findings (field notes) in a variety of ways.
9. Incorporate indeterminacy.
10. Observe movement.
11. Create a personal dialogue with your environment. Talk to it.
12. Trace things to their origins.
13. Use all of the senses in your investigations.
I try to teach these to my students everyday of my working life. It’s not easy. I’m gonna turn this into a poster and hang it in the front of my classroom so my students see this day in and day out. One or two of these tips just might stick. I mean, I memorized the Big Mac’s ingredients in third grade because the lyrics to a jingle were taped up near the pencil sharpener. Unfortunately, they stuck, while  Shelley’s Ozymandias has mostly slipped away.

Didion < Orwell

This post’s title doesn’t mean Orwell is great than Didion, rather Didion stole from Orwell and did so shamelessly—
Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:
In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way,  change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even hostile act.
Didion inspires just about everything I do when it comes to words and thinking about words. And then I stole the name of my radio show from Didion’s first novel. I hope she doesn’t mind.