Monthly Archives: April 2015

Writing a Book: The Big Date

So, this week, I began writing the section of Chapter 4 devoted to John and Angela’s big date. I began this segment detailing John’s daily ritual once he returns home from work. He changes out of his shirt and tie, and works out in his guest bedroom turned home gym. We also learn that John’s home is his sanctuary. Everything has its place, and every place has its thing. However, something is different tonight for John. He is acting very unlike himself, and is letting his anxiety about his date with Angela seep into various other activities. For example, during his workout-finishing five mile run, John begins to feel short of breath and feel his heart race, now thinking about how he can’t possibly entertain Angela, the incredibly independent and headstrong woman from work, for a night. Why is John so worried? Well, as you can probably tell, he is not one to have company very often. In the ten years he has lived in Atlanta, he has not had one guest over to his house, and he has never gone on a serious date in his life. However, this fact does not upset John. He loves being the one in control of his life. For a good majority of his early childhood, he was under the control of his abusive father, and finally gained control when he watched his execution (If I didn’t share this part of the story in an earlier post, sorry to kind of just drop a huge bomb there). John is a creature of habit, always finding ways to make his life as predictable as possible. So, by never having guests, John ensures that nothing in his home ever has to change, just the way he likes it.

As I write more of this section (this week I somehow wrote a total of 842 words, I know unheard of!), I want to expose more and more of this vulnerable side of John. What happens when a creature of habit is forced outside of his comfort zone? What mistakes in his daily rituals does he make? What little things set him off balance? Again, this is where the incredibly detailed portion of this book will come in, and I think will give the reader a good sense of the thoughts running through John’s head while he prepares for, and partakes in this date.

So, as this is the last blog post of RCL, I want to take a moment and thank you, the readers, for putting up with my ramblings about the characters living in my head. I know some weeks I didn’t necessarily make any progress, and as fun as it is to read about personal development *snore*, it is much more exciting to read about what is going on in a new novel, so I apologize for that. Thank you for providing me with a medium through which I can tell this story to the outside world, and see how it’s received before plopping it down on an editor’s desk for it to be shredded in front of my face.

As for the future of Perspectives, I think, given my incredibly slow progress this semester, I hope to be finished with it by the end of my time here at Penn State. Kenzie, you suggested the idea of keeping a separate blog to keep people updated on my progress. Sadly, I do not think I will be doing another blog about this book. Between writing the book, research in a lab, school work, and Blue Band, keeping up another blog will be really hard to do. However, keep an eye out in your local, soon to be obsolete local book store for Perspectives (Hopefully).

Thanks again.

Connor

Education and Creativity

Last semester, we watched clips of one of the most viewed TED talks of all time. Sir Ken Robinson’s, “How schools kill creativity,” is an incredibly insightful talk that exposes many problems present not only in the educational system of the world, but also problems that are present in society surrounding education.

In the beginning of his speech, Robinson makes a joke about educators not being invited to dinner parties. He states that most people would be absolutely appalled if they needed to speak to an educator about their profession, however when asked about their own education, they cannot stop talking. This is the first problem present in society when it comes to education: people do not want to discuss it. Whether it is because they dreaded sitting in the classroom, or they have a job completely separate from their degree, very few people are willing to discuss education, even as a profession, let alone the system itself. This talk was given in 2006, almost ten years ago, and the problems Sir Robinson discusses in his talk are still present today. This video has gotten an immense amount of views, and yet the problem it addresses still persists today. Why is that? It is because people have no desire to discuss education outside of their own educational history. Education is an incredibly future-oriented enterprise, always seeking ways to better prepare students for the ever-changing global community. The students sitting in the classroom, who face the problems of education every day, do not have the influence or stature to make real changes. In order for these problems to be solved, conversation must take place among those with the power to make the necessary changes. People need to look past their own time in school, and start thinking about the billions of children that will go through school in the future.

The overarching theme of Robinson’s talk is that education kills children’s capacity for creativity. His most salient example is the story he tells of Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of the Broadway hits Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. In an interview, Lynne told Robinson that, while in grade school, her teachers contacted her parents about the possibility of Lynne having a learning disability. Her parents took her to a specialist, and after discussing Lynne’s problems in school, the doctor left the room to speak to Lynne’s mother. Rather than say Lynne needed to settle down in class and prescribe her medication, the doctor turned on the radio. Immediately, Lynne got up and started dancing. The doctor advised her enrollment in a dancing school, and the rest is history. What this doctor did is what education needs to do for students. Particularly since the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, certain academic skills have been highlighted as more important than others. For example, math is more important than music, and chemistry is more important than art. The current educational system works to mold students into certain careers that are currently thought of as valuable to society. What the system does not do is foster the growth of each individual student’s interests. Robinson stated this, saying that education does not teach students as whole individuals, rather it squanders certain interests, and for those that are skilled in these “less important” subjects, makes them feel unintelligent. By putting more emphasis on certain subjects, and casually telling students that they will never get a job in art or music, schools kill the creative tendencies of many young children. Six year olds drawing fantastic lands of mystery are told to draw an animal they saw at the zoo. Children with incredible musical talent are told to put down the violin and pick up the protractor. A myriad of studies have been conducted showing the incredible connections between intelligence and creative capacity. With all of this data supporting the continuation of music and arts programs, it is hard to believe that a lot of schools across the United States are cutting funding to these programs.

The overarching opinion of those interested in the betterment of education is that schools should help children realize their own potential, and help them succeed by pursuing their own interests. If education’s focus does not shift to educating the student as a whole, it will be failing billions of our world’s youth in the future.

Here’s the link to the TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/playlists/171/the_most_popular_talks_of_all

Writing a Book: Back on the Horse

I have some incredible news this week. I put words down on the virtual page this week! How many, you ask? 695 words have left my head and been put down into the story. I am so incredibly excited that I made some physical progress on the book this week, and I apologize if the beginning of this post seems a little giddy. I finally had time to sit down (well lie down) and write, and it was an amazing feeling to see words flow out of my head again. So many ideas have been bouncing around in my head recently, and I cannot stress how good it feels to have some of them out. It drives me crazy some days. I cannot sit still, I cannot keep quiet, and I get really agitated when I have all of these ideas floating around in my head, and it is such a weight off of my shoulders to write again.

So, what did I write about? Well, when we left off, we learned of Jacoby’s troubles in the past election after his opponent, Herschel Gallagher, exposed Jacoby’s affair to the public during campaign season. However, using skillful rhetoric and slimy maneuvering, Jacoby was able to turn Gallagher’s smear campaign on its head, and win the election in one of the largest margins of victory in the history of Atlanta. Along with his skillful wordsmithing, Jacoby also brought forth an all-encompassing stimulus package nicknamed, “Joblanta.” In this package, Jacoby promised over ten thousand jobs for the people of Atlanta. I know, what an incredibly lofty promise to make. However, Jacoby has an incredibly successful track record, and the people of Atlanta, especially those who are unemployed, have a newfound love for him.

How will “Joblanta” create so many jobs? It works by pumping massive amounts of funding into bringing Atlanta to the forefront of innovation. Schools, libraries, banks, hospitals, you name it, are being renovated. This creates thousands of construction jobs, and also allows for more jobs to be created in these areas of the economy. More teachers and doctors and stock brokers, etc. can be hired in Atlanta, and soon, it becomes a city of the future. Efforts will be made to make Atlanta a “Green City,” and the economy will flourish.

This stimulus package is great for the one and only John Usher. He is known as one of the most successful architects in the history of Atlanta, and now that so many buildings are going to be redone or built brand new, he and his firm will be receiving a lot of work in the next few years. However, John must focus on his current project, renovating the public library. In this section, we begin to learn what John’s signature architectural style is. John does not like to mix styles in buildings. He keeps his straight buildings straight, and his round buildings round. However, he likes to make the architecture speak for what the building contains. So, he is breaking his rule of “monotony,” and will be combining curves and straight lines in the library. Also, he hopes to find a way to make some spaces look completely different from different angles, capturing the ability books have to teach many different lessons to different readers.

So, that is what I have written thus far. Next up is John’s preparation for his date with Angela. I cannot wait to write more, and let you know how it goes!

Writing a Book: Some Things I Have Learned

Yet again, I have some bad news: I have written zero words since my last post. Life has been really busy, and I have had to set some priorities, something that no one likes to do. In high school, I had my hands in a lot of different clubs, and now that I am here at Penn State, where work and class and activities actually take time out of the day, I have had to cut down on my involvement in extracurriculars. In a way (sadly a way that has negatively impacted my book), this is the first thing that I have learned through writing Perspectives. While it is great to have things that calm you down, or things that you enjoy doing that do not necessarily take a lot of effort, there comes a time where you need to sit down, bite the bullet, and get work done. The things I have had to give up to get work done, while incredibly gratifying in the moment (like drumming or watching Netflix), have to take a back seat to the work that I am doing towards my degree, and my career.

The second thing I have learned in this book is that I actually possess a creative side. All my life, I have never thought of myself as the “creative” type. I have always been interested in science and mathematics, and felt restricted when it came to imagination. In first grade, I remember writing journal entries in class, and one of the “prompts” was to write a story that we imagined. My response was, I kid you not, “I do not have an imagination,” and I then proceeded to write about polar bears and their habitats. Now, it is pretty obvious that I have broken out of my “analytical” shell, and am venturing out into the scary world that Spongebob talked about in his cardboard box. That’s right, I’m talking about the world of…

Now, operating on my own prompt, I am crafting a story from my own mind, and it is really exhilarating. Actually, my expansion into my creative side has helped me take a new approach to the analytical side of my life. It has expanded my capabilities, and I am really happy with how this book has helped me.

Finally, I have learned that it is okay to step out on a limb and try something new. I have lived in a cocoon of familiarity my entire life, and have very rarely taken steps outside of my comfort zone. No matter how much people say how important it is to step out of the familiar, and walk out into the unknown, I never took their advice. I did great in my cocoon, never had to worry about failure, and always knew what to anticipate. As a kid who used to think he did not have an imagination, this venture out into the literary world has been scary. I think every step I take is incorrect, and I think I’m doing everything wrong. However, paraphrasing Thomas Edison, I will not fail, I will only find 1,001 ways not to write a book.

Hopefully I have more physical and less philosophical progress next week. Only time will tell!