I like order. While I am no perfectionist, and I recognize that we live in a chaotic universe, I feel more at peace when t-shirts are folded and put away neatly and tasks are on lists.
Where there is no order, I enjoy imposing it. I see a mess, and my imagination starts selecting, categorizing, and straightening. When I am in a colleague’s unruly office, I must resist the temptation to say, “I could help you with this.” (What a time suck that would be.)
I like the revision part of writing as much as I like the generation part. The mental activity is not unlike cleaning out a closet. Creativity is not all right brain. Could anything ever get made without the desire to bring coherence to a wash of ideas, experience, sensations, stuff? The left brain brings shape to raw material and finds what my friend Jan calls the spine of a piece.
I often think about one creative activity when doing another: writing when gardening, for example. Recently, I organized the laundry corner of the basement, quickly made a rudimentary table, and thought about teaching while doing both. And I didn’t just think about teaching while my hands were busy; I thought about my wonderful junior high shop teacher, Richard Bayrouty, who died in December, and the benefits of real hands-on learning.
In 1977, when I entered 7th grade, there was a policy shift in my hometown’s school system that girls could take industrial arts, or “shop,” as an elective. If I remember correctly, before 1977 all girls took home economics (cooking, sewing, laundry) and all boys took shop. That year, the policy loosened, and suddenly there was cross-registration. Boys who wanted to make and eat cookies took “home ec” with Ms. T. Girls who knew how to sew, cook, wash, and iron, as I did, took shop. My friend Lynn-Marie, who recently wrote to me that she never “caught on to home ec” and “never really liked to cook,” and I were the only two girls that year in Mr. Bayrouty’s class.
He had the best classroom. Continue reading