Dixie Darr

Hungry Minds

In creativity, Learning, Learning Tools on October 23, 2017 at 6:34 am

Hungry Minds
“It is useful,” Leonardo da Vinci wrote, to “constantly observe, note, and consider.” To that end, historian Toby Lester says Leonardo used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and “whenever something caught his eye,” he would make a note, or begin “sketching furiously.”
While I never go anywhere without my journal, another discipline I follow is writing these posts every Monday through Friday. While millions of bloggers focus on trying to make money from their blogs, mine is really just a weblog, a way to force myself to follow Leonardo’s advice to observe and consider.
Popular blogger Seth Godin points out “If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around six months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it.”
Coming up with something to write every day isn’t always easy, but usually, if I just let go and pay attention to what’s on my mind, a topic presents itself. Today it’s keeping a notebook, tomorrow something about my church. Then the fun starts, trying to figure out what I think about the subject and what I can learn from it.
Writer Jonas Ellison agrees. “Blogging every day forces you to notice the details of your life. You need fodder for the day’s post. And you’ll scour your world to get it. You become hyper-aware. You find ways to turn little subtleties into big ideas. You start writing with questions only to be faced with answers by the time you reach the end of the post.”
To Ray Bradbury (and me) “It’s all mulch.”


Just Like Leonardo

In creativity, Learning on October 20, 2017 at 3:32 pm

I’m thinking about signing up for a course in drawing illustrated maps. The one-week online course is taught by Nate Padavick (see his work at http://www.theydrawandtravel.com/) and only costs $29. I want to draw a map of the fictional town of Mayhem Gulch where my mystery takes place.

You may remember that I was an art major my first year of college although I never thought I could draw—my interest was interior design. When this first came out several months ago I decided instead to buy some books and teach myself. Somehow I never got around to that. Maybe a little more structure in an online course will help.

My goal is not to draw like Leonardo—wouldn’t it be nice if you could learn that in a week for $29? Nope. I still don’t fancy myself an artist. What I really like is learning.

In his new biography of Leonardo (I’m 86th in line at the library), Walter Isaacson writes that when daVinci woke up in the morning, he made a list of things he wanted to learn. Isn’t that a great idea?

Michael J. Gelb, who wrote How to Think Like Leonardo daVinci listed seven principles of which the first is Curiosita, “An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.” Isaacson calls Leonardo’s notebooks where he kept notes on his learning, “the greatest record of curiosity ever created.” I’ve kept various Learning Logs over the years and may feel the pull to start another one recording both what I want to learn and what I do learn.

In my previous working life, I was an expert at experiential learning and compiling proof of learning artifacts into a portfolio to earn college credit. I still believe that following our interests results in the deepest, most meaningful learning. Leonardo’s one hell of an example to follow.

Maybe you read about 11-year old Ames Mayfield, the Broomfield fifth grader kicked out of his cub scout den for asking pointed questions of a state senator. I’d love to hear what he learned from that experience.

Then there was 11-year-old Gitanjali Rao from Lone Tree who won this year’s Discovery Education and 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Her sensor, Tethys, detects lead levels in water better than traditional methods. Inspired by the Flint water crisis, she got the idea after watching her parents testing for lead in their water and thinking there had to be a better way.

Gelb said, “Great minds go on asking confounding questions with the same intensity throughout their lives.” These two inspire me to keep learning and give me hope for a better future.

Detritus of Daily Life

In Auntie Flat, Church, creativity, Home, Learning on October 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

As much as I need to declutter my house, I also need to declutter my mind. Things pile up in there and multiply when I’m not paying attention.
If you’re familiar with David Allen’s OCD book, Getting Things Done, you know that his secret is to list everything you need to do. I mean EVERYTHING. Need to do a load of laundry? Put it on the list. That reminds me, I need to put a load of laundry in the washer.
Okay, that’s done. Now I need to remember to put it in the dryer in about half an hour and then take it out of the dryer, fold it and put it away. Sorry, but it just seems dumb to write all that down on a list.
Now Radley is letting me know that once again he got shut in the laundry closet. Coming back from letting him out, I see the dishwasher and remember that I have to unload it and put the dishes away so I can start filling it again with dirty dishes. And I still have a pot soaking in the sink that I should wash and put away.
Will I ever get past these chores and get to the (slightly) bigger things like taking my car in to have the tires rotated and balanced or making an appointment to renew my driver’s license or calling to have my 401K switched to an IRA?
Then I want to get back to writing the mystery I started two years (!) ago. Maybe I should participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November and punch through that.
I did manage to finish the church history I’ve been working on or (mostly) procrastinating for months and just in time for our 125th anniversary this Sunday. Come one come all. It’ll be fun. We’ll have special guests and singing and stories and food. What’s not to like?
Okay, I’m a little distracted.
That’s life.