Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward (1/2)

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I saw this book in a specialty book store in Auckland next to the Auckland Modern Art Museum last year and thought it was nice and ironic. Of course, I put it face out and took a picture of it.

This week’s photo challenge is “forward” and it got me thinking. My initial response to the challenge was to think directionally. So naturally, pictures of people walking somewhere or things that grow came to mind. But then I was thinking about a Peter Elbow quote that I showed my students this past week on writing even when don’t feel inspired or when you just don’t feel like doing anything, and thought about how the process of writing starts with the first step, which is really a draft articulation of what one is thinking. Writing is rarely a linear process – more like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. (How many versions, reams of papers and stacks of books did it take to get me graduated from grad school? I took these pictures so that I would remember that period of my life.)

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 I remember the anecdote that one of my college English Lit. professors shared about Samuel Coleridge. That he always told people that he had the world’s greatest epic poem (eight volumes) all worked out in his head. And then he died, never having put those words on paper. And that eight volume work of greatness died with him. Realistically, probably only three (maybe four) people in the world will actually read my dissertation. Ever. Realistically, me and maybe a few others might read my students’ research papers. These are not destined to become award winning pieces of investigative journalism or insights into the human soul. But, maybe, my students will go on to write something like that. The point is, the first step to writing is to write. It’s not to write perfection. But to write. And write. Revise. Rewrite. Shampoo. Rinse. And repeat.

A few years back, I was in Stockholm for a conference and there was a special exhibit at the Nobel Museum on Winston Churchill. One of the displayed items was a draft of his “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” speech to the House of Commons. What was neat was that you can see his edits. In this sense, the act of writing can show our thinking may (or may not) be moving forward.

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