As I continue reading Bird by Bird, I continue to be amazed by how much Anne Lamott’s advice about writing applies to well both to working with teachers and to living our lives in general.
She talks at length about breaking things into “short assignments.” How often we get discouraged trying to bite off everything at once–whether it’s teaching someone, learning a new skill ourselves, or making a change in a paradigm. She even keeps a small frame on her desk to remind her to focus in on one thing at a time.
She also encourages us to expect and embrace bad first drafts. To just silence the critics in our head, make an attempt, and then weed out what is not needed. This is excellent advice for us in working with teachers on technology (and some students for that matter). I think all these voices that come up–I don’t have time, I can’t do it, I don’t understand, this isn’t for me, I don’t know how, what will people think if I can’t do it–come up and interfere with learning. Just allowing yourself to know that the “first draft” might be crummy and giving yourself permission for that as a learner will make it easier to take the leap into trying something new.
She also writes about the enemy of perfectionism, which in a related way doesn’t allow us to try something because we think it has to be perfect. But she points out that “clutter and mess show us that live is being lived.” She sees it as part of a process of learning and something we need to be very compassionate with ourselves about. Again, I think this is something we can take into our work with teachers as we ask them to blog, create, learn new technologies, shake up the classroom paradigm, and it’s certainly something we can talk about with students in this age of ‘college prep,’ testing and the pressures they face.
Play can open up so much of our creativity if we allow the messes, learning, and first drafts. Easier said than done, probably, but it does lend insights into our work with other educators, doesn’t it?