Tag Archives: ideas

When ideas mesh

Have you ever had that moment of inspiration when two ideas mesh and you know you’ve found the answer? I’m certain you have. It’s creativity. It’s energising. It’s like bubbles in a can, popping all over the place, bursting with exuberance, needing to express; and there’s no keeping it in.

Writing is like that for me. Writing or teaching. Writing and teaching!

Except for when it’s not.

I can think and think and think and struggle to find an idea. But as soon as the two (or more) right ideas come together, there’s an explosion, and I just can’t wait to get it down, or try it out.

It’s what I love about creating teaching resources. I think: how can I best explain this concept, what will children enjoy most, how will they best learn? Fizz! And I’ve just got to do it. I love the creative outlet. Without it, life’s just, well – dull.

I like to think that what I write is different; that my teaching resources differ from the millions of repetitive worksheets that are written to keep children busily unengaged in the learning process. I imagine myself using them, and having fun with my class. I like to think of other teachers using them to encourage children to think creatively, critically, logically, imaginatively, and learning through discussion with their teachers and peers. But do they? I like to think.

Do you hear that self-doubt? Like so many creatives, I find self-promotion difficult. I struggle to put my work out there for fear it might not be good enough. Each new step requires blinkered determination, focus, and practice, practice, practice to strengthen self- belief that wavers at the first hint of a breeze.

But did you see that? I called myself a creative. Should I? Do I have the right? I always say that one thing I loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative. Though I may think I was creative, does my thinking allow me the label?

A few years ago, I gave myself some good talking-tos, took some deep breaths, and attended a writer’s group. Sure, they were the creative types – picture book writers and junior fiction writers. And me. Well, I was aspirational, but had a number of educational publications behind me and was working on my own collection of teaching resources.

In turn, around the circle, we were required to introduce ourselves to the group, sharing what writing we were working on. I could have said I was working on picture books and junior fiction. I have several stuck away in drawers for future development, many with rejection slips to prove I was aspiring. I’d been collecting rejection slips since long before many of these writers were born. I must admit that none of them were recent though, as I’d been more involved in other things, including educational writing.

When it was my turn, I took a deep breath, and stated that I was involved in educational writing at the moment. “Oh,” said the leader. “Educational writing. That’s so formulaic.” And she quickly turned to the next person. Well, if that didn’t burst my bubble. The confidence I’d struggled to muster to even attend the meeting was felled in one swoop.

Not only was she wrong, (well, I believe she was wrong), her attitude was wrong, and her response to an aspiring writer was wrong. She asked no questions, gave no opportunity to discuss why my work may be considered creative, or what other more creative writing I might engage in. She obviously considered I had no business being there among the “real” creatives.

Similar difficulties can be experienced by children in school. People are quick to judge, assess and dismiss on perceptions of background, ability and potential. It can be difficult to stay strong and persistent when the brush of other’s biases paints you inadequate. Without a strong framework and inner fortitude, the will may crack and crumble at the first sign of tension.

Surely, one purpose of education must be to build those strong foundations in order to avoid wreckage in the future. Just as for buildings, we start from the bottom, building on a strong base, adding more to each layer. There’s no starting at the top, or even the middle. Each new layer must mesh with the one before.

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of the mesh that is embedded in concrete to give it inner strength, to hold it together when under pressure, to prevent it cracking and crumbling. What a great analogy for both personal core strength and a foundation of a great education. How could I resist?

Here’s my story. I hope you enjoy it.

Strong foundations

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

P.S. If you are a teacher of children of about 5 to 7 years of age in their first three years of school, I’d love your feedback on readilearn, my collection of early childhood teaching resources. Please complete the survey here and share this post with other early childhood educators you know. I am keen to receive honest feedback about the site’s visual appeal and usability, as well as suitability of resources. Thank you. 🙂

Whose idea is it anyway?

First of all, let me say, there is nothing scientific in this article.

The notions, unless otherwise attributed, are just my thoughts and ideas.

Or are they?

Have you ever had an idea just ‘pop’ into your head?

What about an entire poem or song? Maybe even a story?

Have you ever had an idea; only to find out that another has had almost the exact idea at roughly the same time as you with no chance of collaboration or leak?

Where have these ideas come from?

Do you really think you have thought them up when they have come fully-formed and unbidden?

Sometimes I am not so sure.

Sometimes an idea pops into my head; an idea with no connection to any current thought. It may take me by surprise and make me think: Why didn’t I think of that before? Or rather, why did I think of that at all?

I can’t explain the force that at times propels my hand across the page, fervently trying to keep pace with and capture the words as they spill forth, lest they escape to a region from which they would never be retrieved.

Sometimes I’ve written stories, which I may, or may not, have submitted to a publisher, only to find another very similar in print not long after. How can this be? There was definitely no collusion. My story had been written before the other was in print; and the other would have been underway by another publisher before mine had been submitted.

Have you ever noticed that often two movies on a similar topic or theme are released almost simultaneously? Is this coincidence or planned?

I know that sometimes songs are very similar, and in fact, there have been court cases over certain bars and riffs. I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often. How can new combinations of notes still be arranged? How difficult it can be to get a melody out of one’s head. How much more difficult it must be to be certain whether that melody is one of your own creation or one that your ears have captured.

image courtesy of openclipart.org

image courtesy of openclipart.org

I remember hearing someone suggest, many years ago, that there are many ideas out there (floating around somewhere in the universe?) ready to be picked. Sometimes they are picked simultaneously by different people in different places around the world.

I wasn’t too sure about that, but it did provide an explanation, of sorts, for the duplication of ideas.

A few months ago, I listened to a fascinating TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius.

The focus of Elizabeth’s talk is a little different from my own, but she did offer some thoughts on this topic also.

I was particularly interested to hear that in ancient Greece and Rome

people did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings . . . People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.

The Romans called this entity a “genius”. A genius was not a clever individual. It was the spirit that would help shape the artist’s work. The artist did not need to take full credit or responsibility for the work, as the work was that of the “genius’ working through the artist.

Now that seems to support the notion of ideas arriving fully-formed, as does this next one:

Elizabeth went on to talk about the American poet, Ruth Stone, who described how “she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape” and she would have to run back to house in order to “collect it and grab it on the page” before it thundered on to another poet. I won’t quote the whole story here. Please follow the link to read the rest. It may surprise you as much as it surprised me!

Looking for a little more content for this article, I came across this blog post by Amanda CraigSynchronicity, or when writers have the same idea

Amanda writes,

“Synchronicity is when two or more people have the idea at the same time. Science is littered with examples of this. Darwin only published his Origin of the Species because a fellow biologist had also deduced the concept of natural selection, and sent him his own book in manuscript; several people can claim to have invented the computer, and so on. So, too, in literature. I still remember a Spectator Diary Susan Hill wrote when she found out that Beryl Bainbridge was working on a novel about Scott’s doomed expedition to the Antarctic. She had to abandon it. Rival biographies of the same person are commissioned simultaneously, and sometimes even films (like the two versions of Les Liasons Dangereuses).”

Now, is that just what I’ve been talking about?

Follow the link to her entire article to find out what she thinks about synchronicity.

Still eager for more, this article about Multiple discovery explains that scientists, also, are similarly burdened and, according to Robert K. Merton

Sometimes the discoveries are simultaneous or almost so; sometimes a scientist will make a new discovery which, unknown to him, somebody else has made years before.

So where is all this leading me?

It is simply to introduce the poem,  “A leaf floated down” which came to me as I was preparing for my day. The thoughts were not connected to any others of the moment; the first verses simply wrote themselves, and the parts that I am least happy with, are the parts I laboured to bring forth. I hope it is my own!

I’d love to know what you think about this synchronicity that we, as creatives, often experience. Please share your thoughts!