Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
For any Smiths or Morrissey fans out there, I wrote a short piece published today by Ethos Review about how Morrissey’s lyrics capture the inherent pain of the human condition. An excerpt:
What Morrissey captures is not the pain of being a teenager; he captures—with constant wit and humor that is often overlooked—the underlying struggle of human life, which existential psychology summarizes in four “givens of existence”: (i) our coming to terms with the fact that we must die; (ii) the difficulty of taking responsibility for our ultimate freedom to lead authentic lives; (iii) our isolation from others; and (iv) the search for meaning in a world where none is antecedently given. Morrissey knows how hard these things are to do and has made that his subject matter. In this sense, Morrissey is a classic existential hero—he knows what nothing means and keeps on playing—and, in a Nietzschean spirit, his art brings us back from our difficulties to a fuller acceptance of life. As J.D. Salinger once said, “God have mercy on the lonely bastard.”
You can read the rest courtesy of the fine folks at Ethos.
NPR reports a really interesting new study on curiosity that should be of interest to reference and instruction librarians. An excerpt:
Ranganath was curious to know why we retain some information and forget other things.
So he and his colleagues rounded up 19 volunteers and asked them to review more than 100 trivia questions. Questions such as, “What does the term ‘dinosaur’ actually mean?” and “What Beatles single lasted longest on the charts, at 19 weeks?”
Participants rated each question in terms of how curious they were about the answer.
Next, everyone reviewed the questions — and their answers — while the researchers monitored their brain activity using an MRI machine. When the participants’ curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up. Curious minds also showed increased activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in the creation of memories.
There was one more twist in Ranganath’s study: Throughout the experiment, the researchers flashedhed photos of random faces, without giving the participants any explanation as to why.
Those whose curiosity was already piqued were also the best at remembering these faces.
The researchers were surprised to learn that curious brains are better at learning not only about the subject at hand but also other stuff — even incidental, boring information.
“Say you’re watching the Breaking Bad finale,” Ranganath explains. If you’re a huge fan of the show, you’re certainly really curious to know what happens to its main character, Walter White.
“You’ll undoubtedly remember what happens in the finale,” he says, but you might also remember what you ate before watching the episode, and what you did right after.
This is a phenomenon teachers can use to their advantage in the classroom, says Evie Malaia, an assistant professor at the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education at the University of Texas, Arlington.
“Say a kid wants to be an astronaut,” she says. “Well, how do you link that goal with learning multiplication tables?” A teacher may choose to ask her class an interesting word problem that involves space exploration, Malaia says.
At the end of the class, students may remember the answer to the word problem, but they’ll also remember how they found the answer through multiplication.
“This way kids basically get into the driver’s seat,” Malaia says. “They feel especially good if they discover something, if they construct knowledge themselves.”
Teachers have been using this technique instinctively for years, she adds, and now the science is backing that up. “Curiosity really is one of the very intense and very basic impulses in humans. We should base education on this behavior.”
Some news from your SoCal contributor to this blog: I got married last weekend to my library school sweetheart, so I’ve changed my name to Dani Brecher Cook—you’ll see this reflected on this blog, social media (@danibcook), and at upcoming conferences. The name change process is long and tedious, but I’m excited to embark on this new adventure with a shiny new name!
Here’s some pictorial evidence from the event, featuring your two blog contributors and two other fabulous librarians:
I imagine that you’d like to become a success or something equally vile.
-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces
Bill Marino (Eastern Michigan) has given me permission to post a tutorial he and his team put together on reliability and evaluating information. Bill and I met at last year’s LOEX, and he asked permission to use and adapt a “reliability continuum” I made up and use in my classes to get students to think critically about sources. Interestingly, the tutorial combines the CRAAP test with my work, so the tutorial is very Cal State-centric, as the CRAAP test was created by our library dean here at the Meriam Library, Sarah Blakelee. Sarah is, of course, aware that I don’t have much love for the CRAAP test, and seems to like me anyway.
I’d also like to point out that Bill was an exemplar of being a good professional colleague with all of this: he requested my permission to use and adapt my ideas for this purpose, properly cited the work in the tutorial, said he’d follow up with me when the tutorial was finished, and actually did!