Photo Journal: Writing Retreat #1

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

This week, I headed to my parents house in northern Michigan for my own personal writing retreat. I’m so very grateful to my husband and daughters for their moral and very tangible time support so that I can complete my … Continue reading

The importance of process

I’m working with a writing coach right now, she is amazing. Something that rang eerily true for me while we were working this weekend was the fact that my past experiences with writing – and other types of creating as well – were largely about having a product outwardly validated. A final draft, a Bach Suite, a photograph, a test result.

I’m now working on my dissertation, which needs to be all about process. There will be a product, yes. But the focus of that product, the reason for it’s existence is a for me to communicate my process. Which, as it turns out, I don’t trust and hasn’t actually helped me to move my thinking forward. I’m working on these things but in the meantime, my realization got me thinking about the things that are publicly valued in our society – so SO many of those things are about product.

  • Olympic Medals – or the more timely Final Four Basketball Championship
  • the number of albums sold.
  • Length of time on the best seller list.
  • Test scores.
  • Did I mention test scores?

I worry that with so much rhetoric and pressure on schools (translate: teachers & students) to put out strong test scores, everyone will lose sight of the process of learning. Do we need to know what we are teaching and if students are learning? Yes. Can process be included in testing? Sometimes. But I hope that we don’t lose sight of helping students develop and understand their own processes, including:

  • Process of learning
  • Process of creating
  • Process of teaching
  • Process of engaging

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

This book has been sitting on my tbr pile for quite a while now. I read Hound Dog True last year (based on my friend Colby Sharp’s gushing about it, yes he gushed) and loved it. Urban is clearly a gifted storyteller, particularly when it comes to character and voice.

I sat down last evening with my daughters for “family reading time” and decided it was time to read A Crooked Kind of Perfect. I finished it before going to sleep and am still thinking about it today, right now even. I love books that stay with me like that – make me want to go back, reread them, mull over the language, and think about what it is that made me respond this way.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect hits home with me personally in a variety of ways – but I think perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t read it yet is because I needed to read it this week. I’m going to defend my practicum study this thursday. I’ve been working on it for far longer than I thought I would due to a variety of reasons (like breaking my arm). It had gotten to a point where every time I looked at it all I could see was the “crooked” – the holes, and time that felt wasted, and paper that hadn’t been defended. It seemed like I would never finish it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quit my ph.d. program in the past two years – just so I wouldn’t have to deal with finishing it.

The chapters in the middle of the book where Zoe decides to quit were so spot on. The way that the sentence length shortens, she blocks out all possibilities, and is just sure that quitting is the only way to go.

Quitting

It is no big deal that I am quitting.
It isn’t.
It really isn’t.
It’s not like quitting the piano.
That would be a tragedy. (p. 84)

What I love about this is that it’s ok for Zoe to quit. She does it for a few pages. Her parents don’t chastise her or push her, they just sit with her, and let her quit. And eventually there is a key change, and she decides not to quit. My husband, writing group and friends have done this for me with my practicum. They have watched me struggle, and listened, and pushed at just the right times. But ultimately I am the one that decided not to quit.

Perfectionism is rampant in our society. It is something that is presented in movies, television shows, the news, books, and each other; often in ways that we aren’t even aware of. We judge each other harshly and don’t stop to acknowledge that there is more to life than first place, a gold medal, or the most money.

Here is a book that celebrates hard work, at something that wasn’t exactly the way Zoe imagines, but that turns out to be about more than being a prodigy, more than getting applause for a performance. It is realistic in so many fabulous possible ways.

Zoe’s mom works hard, she misses some of her daughters events – but Zoe doesn’t hate her for it.

Zoe’s dad lives with OCD, or at least symptoms similar to it. He does not “struggle” with his issues, he lives with them. He is a father who loves not only his daughter and wife, but extends it to another child who needs a positive adult presence in his life.

Zoe deals with friend problems, something not uncommon for middle school aged children. But those problems do not define her, she feels yucky about them and moves on. Just like she does with quitting. This is a book about real people, living real lives.

So this thursday, I will defend my practicum (I might wear multi-colored toe socks). It will not be perfect – because such a thing does not exist. It will however be mine and it will be done and I will move forward with my dissertation and finish. That will by my crooked kind of perfect. I think we’ll get a cake and some Vernor’s to celebrate.