TED Talks Addiction: Sir Ken Robinson

Shoutout to one of the blogs I read, Flavorwire, for posting interesting articles on writing and education. I am not sure how I got around to watching Sir Ken Robinson on TED Talks Education on YouTube, but I have been having a delightful time. The intersection of learning, education, and creativity is a topic I love to explore. It helps when the speaker has a short laugh, sense of humor, and delivery akin to Eddie Izzard, my favorite comedian.

If the intersection of learning, education, and creativity is a topic that interests you, I recommend you watch these talks by Mr. Robinson’s:

  1. How Schools Kill Creativity
  2. Bring on the Learning Revolution
  3. Changing Education Paradigms
  4. How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

In his talks, Mr. Robinson makes a solid case that the development of the educational system in America arose during the Enlightenment in direct response to the needs of American industrialization during the 1800’s. Like a factory churning out widgets, we group our children in batches by age (i.e., their manufacturing date), move them along regardless of where they are individually, with an emphasis on only teaching skills that business rewards. On top of that, we undervalue our teachers, have had laws made that try to remove the variability in methods (i.e. standardization of testing, the No Child Left Behind Act), and fail to spark real learning and education in children. Instead, we treat them like their childhood is a disease from which they are suffering (i.e. identify them as suffering from ADHD) and drug the hell out of them.

I think I would have had more problems in elementary school if I had not been on phenobarbital, a barbiturate routinely given to treat epileptic seizures in children in the 1970’s, until I was 12 years old. I can only imagine that it made me less fidgety than other children possibly were feeling at the time. I learned to divert my energies into my studies and to getting good grades.

One of my first and enduring memories about my life was that I was not imaginative. I was not creative. I would never be as creative or as good in my creativity as “other people”. I was taught that building a life out of creativity was something you only did if you were not smart enough to do anything else in life. Isn’t that terrible?

What I wanted then and throughout my adult life has been to build a creative life. As an adult, I repeatedly turned away from myself, from what I wanted, from what I thought I wanted to do with my life, and away from creativity. I was determined to find a way to apply myself to an office job because that was where the stability and the money was.

It was also where the misery was, for me at least. I never wanted to work in an office. I could not imagine myself not working in an office. I never wanted to have bosses and be told what to do. I could never imagine that my own internal thoughts and desires were sufficient directive to do what I wanted. I waxed and waned between anxiety and terror. What if I wasn’t any good?

In the meantime, I threw myself at work. Force words, terms, actions, and knowledge into my head so that I could learn to do something practical. Dependable. Objective. So that no one would point at me and be able to say, “See what you did? You wasted your life! All that smarts and all you did was paint? All you did was write a work of fiction? Why are you wasting your time with unimportant things?” I imagined a person in my head, using my mother’s voice, or the voice or a sister, telling me I was wasting my time. If my time was a waste, I was a waste. If I was a waste, then I did not deserve to be here or do anything worthwhile, because what I thought was worthwhile was to be reviled.

I struggle with creative work. I struggle with writing. I have a story to edit that overwhelms me with all that needs to be done. I will attend to it because I have finally gotten it through my fortified skull the one lesson I earned through my own misery: that no amount of respect or money will make me happy. Only I can make me happy when I chose work that is meaningful to me. To create, to make, and to write are what I love more than anything else. If others  have made a life built on those things, then so can I.

I am not too late. I am here now. I have learned by rejecting the ideals of an educational system that teaches us only certain things that we love, that only certain people, matter. What we do, who we love, and how we treat each other are all things that matter deep within our selves.

3 Important Things to Learn About Life From These 3 Actors

When we see the end result, we think that is all there is

In my post yesterday about the book The Longest Way Home by actor, director, and travel writer Andrew McCarthy, I admired how he shared his inner dialog and reveal his human flaws. I am inspired by those who are able to move beyond their inner struggles and find a way to release their souls and desires out into the world. In this book, Mr. McCarthy shares whatever messy, unformed, and unflattering thoughts and actions he takes. This itself takes a kind of courage that few possess. Continue reading

Birthday Writing Failures

Readers, I have failed you! When I wrote about my birthday in NYC on Thursday, I forgot to mention two of the best parts of my day: Fashionable Man and Talking Man.

Continue reading

Ode to Robert Burns and Eddie Izzard

Happy 254th birthday to Scottish poet Robert Burns! Out of all the things I read in middle school, I still remember reading Robert Burns’ poems To A Mouse. Eddie Izzard, quite possibly my favorite comedian, about does a great little bit about this poem. This is a clip from Eddie’s 1996 Definite ArticleEnjoy!

A Happy Catalyst

Ideas come from places and people in ways that we, as writers, cannot predict.

Tonight I had a fascinating conversation with a cab driver. I didn’t get his name. He was friendly, as taxi drivers tend to be, and talkative. My cab driver (CD) said he was always trying to think up business ideas. CD started to explain to me this idea that he had: a kitchen where different families could come and cook and, possibly, share their meals with one another. I wasn’t sure how that would work so I began asking questions and, alternately, giving business advice. Where would this place be? How big would it have to be? Would people cook there? What about a restaurant and place where people could cook? How would it be decorated; to fit the culture of the people cooking? What ingredients would they have? Would it be possible to bring in ethnic ingredients that are hard to get in the United States?  Would that entice people to come in and cook authentic dishes if they could get rare or hard-to-get ingredients?  Eventually, the words Community Kitchen came to my mind and CD added the word Boston – Boston Community Kitchen. The idea resonated with both of us. By the time he dropped me off, we were shaking hands and agreeing that the other was person was a ‘good egg’. My last words to him was that I expected to see his face on ‘Chronicle’, a Boston regional TV show that focuses on New England experiences.

The next best thing to coming up with a great idea for yourself is to help someone brainstorm their great idea and hand it off to them, just like a relay racer hands the baton to the next runner. Don’t cling. Keep it going.

Daily Object Writing

I’m taking a online writing course at Berkleemusic.com called ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice’. The class is a first-of-its-kind course developed by Pat Pattison, codeveloped and taught by Caroline Harvey.

Five days a week, we are given three timed writing exercises (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 90 seconds), each with its own theme and requirements. These exercises are called ‘object writing’, similar to the types of exercises that Natalie Goldberg writes about in ‘Writing Down the Bones’, because you pick something, anything, and write about it.

Your goal is to write and write every day. The more you do it, the better and easier it gets. Three weeks into the course, I’m gaining confidence. The point is not to have a polished writing, but just to write and write from the senses, as much as possible.

Today’s writing goals: Include sense-bound writing (sight, sound, touch, taste, feel, body (how it feels inside), and kinesthetic (motion, dizziness, etc); include past, present, & future tense; from the point of view (POV) of direct address (You see a ship, etc.)

Object Writing: First Kiss (5 minutes)

So your first kiss was in the basement of a Allston, MA house who residents were Alpha Kappa members, throwing a party for their Providence, RI members?  The smell of beer and vomit mingled like a wasted college-kid’s parfum & a sour smell forced your mouth downward in displeasure. Your head was spinning, music blaring in your ears, your heart beating in your chest. Light is on the lowest setting that your eyes can make out. What do you see? Your man grabs you, throws you up against the chimney, grinds himself into you. You are hot sweaty and a thought threw itself in your face like a bucket of cold water.  Barely getting your mouth away in time, you fly upstairs, claiming illness. Will you burst through the front door, take in a huge, gasping gulp of air as if for the first time? How will you walk home? By yourself? Take a taxi. Imagine that you are flying through the air on a broom, eyes closed, flying straight into bed. Safe. Alone. Goodnight.

Object Writing: Spring Break (10 minutes)

Your plan for spring break was to go to the beach, maybe lay on your towel, smooth in coconut 4SPF suntan lotion on your solo bikini-clad body, and read the trashy vampire novel series ‘Twilight’ before the week was out. But that wasn’t how things went, did they? Instead of being by yourself, you were followed by a small group of strange men. They didn’t come too close to you, did they? No. Well, thank goodness. I know you like to pretend there is no danger at the beach but I tell you – there is! Anyway, I am glad they left you alone after you gave them one good, hard stare right back at them, the best you could manage, to let them know that you knew they were there. The backed away, the trio, shoulders huddled together, hands in front of their faces, whispering, all the while looking at you for as long as they could while trying to walk in the order direction. I know you tried not to laugh at how quickly their interest turned to catcalls and rude hand gestures. After that, you were sitting in the sun, soaking it in, like a sponge that grew for that one purpose. Your skin looks radiant and glowing. I see sand in your hair and a spot on your circus T-shirt that says, “Ice cream was here.” Now, after a shower, you will sit on your deck as the evening star comes out to play, a cool breeze blowing behind your ears and tickling them with hair wisps. The moon will reflect in your lime and tonic soda. The buzzing of crickets will ring in your ears. If you’re lucky, maybe even the peepers will come out. The smell of slightly wet night air will cool your nostrils, open them up to the aromas of evening: charcoal briquettes burning in the chiminea on your red slate patio, the scent of cooling grass still wet from a late evening watering, inhale the beauty of the outdoors for it will be yours if …. What? You have to go, you say? I’m sorry to hear it. When can we meet again? When the half-moon rises in the sky? Why, yes, that’s Saturday night. You’re busy? Washing your hair? Oh. Well, I. Oh. Well, should you decide that walking along Walden Pond’s perimeter, adequately sprayed with anti-mosquito spray, tickles your fancy, then.. Oh. Well, here’s my … No? Well, in that case, let me seduce you with this: cherry kisses, lime caresses, hazelnut songs of love. We will be each other’s desserts. Yumm….

Object Writing: Midnight (90 sec)

Blue black darkness spreads over your face, my love. The moon reflected its whiteness back into your eyes, glowing white orbs reminded me of eggs. The foul stench of eggs consumes you and you can think of nothing else, getting dizzy now. You blink and see the edge of your smile taunting us, like children taunting each other with names on a playground. I feel the cold. Wht