Thursday, December 2, 2010

Experiential Learning

After going thru the ‘confusion’ of understanding ‘meta cognition’ and writing, one breaks out and realizes that it’s all useless mental churning again. It does provide a few moments of insight but disappears into the every day reality of writer’s block. Understanding ‘meta cognition’ does not provide concrete steps; only theory and eventual confusion. One can’t help but re-read the article and theories again with the confounding remark ‘say what again?’ So it’s back to intellectual masturbation. Happily one forces himself to attend interesting workshops where there are exercises that one does – an experiential type of learning rather than reading the latest studies on writing. I think this maybe the best way to learn ala Toastmaster. Perhaps it’s the best method for me - actual practice instead of book learning (but I do blog which should amount to something).

Another option is to attend a scribbler’s meetings where one gets to read one’s work in front of a group. These meetings are sponsored by the library and one get to listen to other would-be-writers and also get some friendly criticism of one’s work. One gets to share and read out aloud one’s words.  I guess it’s externalizing one’s deeply held ‘private’ work. One realizes that one would not have the confidence and ease to attend workshops or scribbler’s meetings without the practice of Toastmasters. It’s the missing link to one’s development as one would have gotten a fair amount of exposure in public settings without losing one’s composure. It’s like an act or role or armor the shrouds the person’s shyness or awkwardness; providing a basic polish to an otherwise raw exterior. Perhaps it’s also a re-structuring of one’s internal psyche into the glare of social interactions and public acceptance as speaker or writer.

Scribbler meetings are like the Inklings gatherings in Oxford where writers like C.S.Lewis and J.R. Tolkien read their works to their close friends. They would meet after work in nearby pubs or restaurants, drinking beer and having discussion well into the early morning. Great books have come out of these meetings like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the adventures of Narnia. These are not writers by profession but intellectuals or lecturers in the Oxford university circuit. The library has a new exhibit on the Inklings (after their excellent series on Lincoln) but I don’t think there are any lectures planned. So I borrowed books and DVDs on the Inklings.  The library has held a lot of interesting exhibits and lectures this year on personal finance, legal matters (wills and probates), Lincoln and now the Inklings. It’s the best library system that I have experienced so far, devoted to learning and improving one’s self.

Last Monday, on a dark and rainy night, I traveled after work to the nearby county to attend an interesting writing workshop. It was an interesting seminar conducted by a teacher who attended the famous Black Mountain College in North Carolina. After giving an inspiring lecture, we were divided into groups and went about writing poetry. The first step was to write in free form on 3 photographs one has chosen from a book. The second step was to pass one’s work to your group mate so he or she would encircle interesting passages from their point of view. In the third step, the work is passed to a third person who would list down in another paper those interesting passages. Finally, based on the passages, one would try to make a poem by rearranging sentences, editing, adding and deleting words. It was an interesting exercise where one would create poetry from a photograph after following a series of seemingly random choices by others.

My group individually chose 3 photographs: an old lady sitting in a room, a small town in the plains with a full moon above and snow capped mountains in the distance and a young woman bathing in an underground stream with sunlight peeking through the cave openings. The resulting poem that came out is listed below.

The Essence of Mystery

She is old and young
Arms outstretched
Staring out into the darkness
A windswept white cloud expanse;
She looks out into the distance
Mysterious aging landscape.

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