The how do you write meme is swirling through the edtech community and now Vicky Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog, has tagged me ... (calling me a pro -- but honestly in comparison to Vicky's work, I feel like more a Sunday afternoon painter.)
Vicky has written a brilliant post answering the question "How do you write for your blog?" using the metaphor of an orchestra conductor and virtuoso orchestra musicians making music together.
In yet another example of the connectedness of the Web2.0, another person Vicki tagged was Doug Johnson, author of the Indispensable Teacher's Guide To Computer Skills published in 1999. I've never met Doug face-to-face, but I sure know and admire his work. I modified his "Mankato Scale" into a nonprofit tech skills assessment for a technology planning curriculum for arts organizations for NYFA back in 2000. I shared this on a listserv with some nonprofit technology geeks (aka circuit riders) and one of them told me that his father worked at the same school as Doug in Minnesota. I think I gushed about how much I learned from his work. Several weeks later, I received an autographed copy of Doug's book in the snail mail!
Since my formal education is in music (studied flute), I'm going to riff on Vicky's ideas because they reasonate with me. Vicky says that writing a blog, like music, is more than a single solitary note, but a composition. True. But in music school, I did spend a lot of time alone in a practice room honing my technical skills (chops). Yet, etudes did excitment as much as playing chamber music with other people. And, of course, having an audience always added a little bit of energy too.
For me, writing a blog is balancing between "wood shedding" alone and thinking/writing outloud with others. That marvelous patch work quilt of different and connected s in the blogosphere that influences your thinking, your writing, and sometimes your practice.
I've written about my blogging workflow before, but I'd like to share my creative process.
1. I wait for the butterflies to flutter out of my RSS Reader
I've written a lot about how my RSS reader is an information coping tool. It is also becomes my muse and a key source of inspiration. My reader has lots of blogs feeds, comment feeds, tag feeds, search feeds, and more. I read for patterns and wait for what Will Richardson called the butterflies to flutter.
I’m reading and two or three pieces of content flow up from my network that begin to click together in my brain like magnets, making connections. And at that moment, my mind starts writing, composing a post that it needs to make sense of the ideas, the patterns that seem to be emerging. I’ve come to rely on the blogging to cement together the pieces and make them more of a whole, one that I know is never fully complete, and never will be.
And, like Will, observes, blogging allows you to sew those butterflies into a beautiful patchwork quilt.
2. Can I connect that pattern to a picture? And, how does the picture morph and change that pattern/idea?
None of us possess all the of the nine multiple intelligences -- but if we are self-aware we know which ones we can use to enhance our writing process. My strong modalities are a visual and naturalistic intelligences. Once the pattern starts to emerge, I immediately translate the pattern into a visual. I often use flickr as a pre-writing tool, often searching by tag clusters to think through the idea. It may not lead to any actual writing, but it helps trigger my creative thought process which connects to my writing. Writing is thinking ...
3. Can I connect the pattern or picture with my own experience, a story, or annecdote ? Does it make me think of a person?
I'm also trying to think about what connections from my own experience might come to bear to help understand what I'm writing about. Or, I start to think of people that I've connected with about this topic. That's where that the open source thinking or the connected conversations start to happen.
4. What have I learned about the topic?
And, then it is time to step back and reflect on what learning has taken place. It is the stepping away, the 500 ft. view, the letting the post marinate .... I feel constant tension in my blogging life between the need to get things done and the need to capture learning. If I don't take the time to reflect, I get cranky. I get overwhelmed my information. Digesting is important. So is distance.
Opening the Kimono
I've opened the Kimono to my creative process. And, now I'm hoping that others in the nonprofit tech community will share too. I was inspired by Marshall Kirkpatrick's sharing of his "work flow" and Andy Carvin's thoughtful post about his writing process. Take this further into the nonprofit tech space. Alan Benamer, Katya Andresen, Laura Quinn, Holly Ross, Nedra Weinreich, Gavin Claburgh, Michelle Murrain, Michele Martin, Marnie Webb, Allison Fine and Lucy Bernholtz.
UPDATE: SLAP my wrists. I've been so Americentric in my tagging of others .. I apologize. So, here goes a shout out to all the rest of continents .... to spread this meme globally ..