Friday, September 24, 2010
LEARNING FROM FAILURE
I’ll share an excerpt from the Media Education Foundation transcript, an interview with Peter Elbow, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Massachusetts. This is what he said about failure:
During that whole time, I was worried about my writing and I kept a kind of a journal. I kept taking notes. I kept writing myself letters about what was going on my writing, especially when things got tricky, when I got stuck, when I wandered into a swamp in my writing and I couldn't figure out how to get going again. I would take out a separate piece of paper and write myself a note. Not a pep talk but an attempt to be perfectly empirical. What happened? When did I first start getting stuck? What led to that? Can I figure out what train of thought got me down a blind alley? What was going on with my language? What was going on with my thinking? What was going on with my feelings? And when I got going again I would try to remember to and write myself another note, how did I get out of here? What was the turning point? Was there something I did that helped me get out of this stuck point? Well I wrote myself those notes for three years and kept slipping them in a folder until that folder got to be very fat and full of notes some of them written on the back of envelopes, but I was getting very interested in what was in there. I didn't have much time to explore it, but that folder of notes to myself is what turned into my first book about writing and turned into my first study of the writing process.
Dr. Elbow’s first book on writing was entitled Writing without Teachers. He is also the author of four other books on writing and the writing process.