Writing has been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps because I have been thinking about writing I am finding stimuli everywhere and everywhen. I realise that it may be that I am an ‘accidental connectivist’.
The most recent stimulus was George Siemen’s blog post Teaching as transparent learning. In the post George explores the idea of learning by sharing:
My work on blogs, articles, handbooks, and so on is an invitation to engage in conversation, not a proclamation of what I absolutely know.
He adds that Will Richardson (see, for example, New Reading, New Writing), Terry Anderson, Stephen Downes, Grainne Conole, amongst others, “seek not to proclaim what they know, but rather to engage and share with others as they explore and come to understand technology and related trends.” (Stephen Downes picks up on this point in his OLDaly post. Stephen notes that “When I write, and even when I speak, I am basically thinking aloud – and readers and listeners are able to follow along.”)
George adds to his list Alan Levine, D’Arcy Norman, Janet Clarey, Brian Lamb and Alec Couros as examples of writers who decide “to share their thoughts and ideas in a transparent manner” in doing so “they become a teacher to those who are observing.”[George’s post sent me off on a tangent about teaching and demonstration. Many years ago some physical education textbooks used to talk about ‘executive demonstration’. This kind of demonstration required the teacher to demonstrate a skill or an activity. The idea was that learners could observe and extract from the demonstration. Whilst looking for some links to old texts I came across a conference paper by Michael Messerole and Paul Clark (2004) entitled Electronic Portfolios: What Value Do They Provide? In it they show examples of teacher candidate portfolios. These examples include “types of digital artifacts being created by teacher candidates, including digital video, text and electronic documents.” Michael and Paul’s paper demonstrates the transparency George writes about.]
Earlier this week (27 April) OLDaily pointed me to Clay Birrell’s post How to write timed essays that are not crap. He shares an approach to writing that “was never possible before about two years ago – a way that allows the students to literally watch and hear their teacher read an AP Exam prompt, read the exam poem cold, and then write the exam. All under test conditions, within the 40 minute time limit.”
A few days earlier two car journeys in two days gave me access to Radio National’s Book Show. One of the journey’s had me transfixed with Lee Gutkind’s interview.
I was fascinated by Lee’s discussion of creative non-fiction as a genre and followed up his discussion here in which he observes that:
Although it sounds a bit affected and presumptuous, “creative nonfiction” precisely describes what the form is all about. The word “creative” refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible.
Number 36 of the Creative Nonfiction Journal took George’s transparency and Will’s Diigo annotations one step further:
During the editing process for this issue, with the permission of the writers, we eliminated the original beginnings of three essays and started them a few paragraphs or pages in. Our goal was to make the beginnings more immediate, to eliminate some writerly throat-clearing, to help plunge readers into the heart of the story—the action, the theme, the substance—from the very beginning. Did these changes in fact make this story more effective? And what was lost in the process? See what the author had to say about the changes, and
John Barber has created a remarkable website that chronicles Richard Brautigan’s work. In a section on Brautigan’s novels, this quote appears:
One day when I was twenty-five years old, I looked down and realized that I could write a sentence. Let’s try one of those classic good-bye lines, “I don’t think we should see so much of each other any more because I think we’re getting a little too serious,” which really meant that I wrote my first novel Trout Fishing in America and followed it with three other novels.
An audio file of the Radio National program can be found here. I ended up reading some of Richard Brautigan’s poems after Adam Ford‘s observation that Brautigan started writing poetry “to learn how to write a sentence and once he was satisfied he could write a good sentence he would have a crack at writing fiction.” I liked this short poem from Wild Dog (1965) entitled The Buses:
Philosophy should stop
at midnight like the buses.
Imagine Nietzsche, Jesus
and Bertrand Russell parked
in the silent car barns.
I did stop myself pursuing poetics at this point but I did remember fondly Miller Mair‘s work.
All these opportunistic encounters add to my sense of being an accidental connectivist. By this I mean that many of the wonderful opportunities to engage with other writers in structured courses like CCK08 are transformed into a local context after such courses are ‘over’. Of late I have been participating in Yammer communities and writing Tweets. Both of these encourage parsimony. Despite the brevity of exchanges in these media I sense there is enormous transparency available too (shortly after concluding this post I received a link to Tweeting to Inform learning Space Development via OLDaily and followed up with a visit to Kate Trgovac‘s blog). There is great humour. (Just recieved a Creative Nonfiction tweet on Writing it Short.)
Oh and … I realise that I must return to How to write articles and essays quickly and expertly (2006) too if I am to continue exploring witing!