Friday, May 20, 2005

Another stab at thinking differently

I've spent most of the day on Helen Dowland's fabulous site about gifted children. I could write all kinds of blog entries about the articles she has there, but since she's already written everything better than me, I'll desist. ;)

I will highly recommend her article on "subconscious, conceptual, holistic thinking" or, as most of society would call it, "procrastination." As she describes it, there are some of us (and I do mean to include myself in this) that do much of their thought processing subconsciously, rather than in a logical sequence, i.e. thesis, outline, notecards, first draft, second draft, etc. This subconscious process generally looks like nothing is happening then ends in a burst of creativity, usually at the last minute, when the thinker creates something fabulous out of apparently nothing. Dowland uses the analogy of giving birth, which I think is particularly apt. True procrastinators, on the other hand, wait 'til the last minute and then do poorly because they've given no thought, conscious or unconscious, to the problem.

An example of subconscious thinking: #1 Son had to do a book report in front of his whole English class last week. He knew it had been assigned, but forgot when it was due until the beginning of the class period. When called on, he stood up and delivered an extemporaneous report on The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a book he hadn't read all of (although he had seen the movie). The other student reporting on that book said Nick "made him look like an idiot."

Another example, #1 Son had a science fair in March. He picked out his project (Mag-Lev Trains), ordered and built the model, did some research on the web but didn't really do anything about putting the display together. Then one morning he called me from school and said, "Apparently the science fair is tonight." After I finished squawking, he said they had until 4pm to get the display to school, so could I please pick him and his project partner up right after school at 2:40 so they could do the poster?

Of course, I said, yes, because I knew he needed the extra credit points from participating in the science fair to pass science class. I also found and printed out some pictures of mag-lev trains from the internet. That's all I did. At 3:15, he started writing the information to be included on the poster and his friend and I glued things down according to the layout he had decided on. At 3:55 they loaded the poster and the model in the car and tore over to the school. At 6:00, he received the highest mark possible from the judges.

Dowland suggests that because this nonlinear approach to thinking is exactly the opposite of what "good students" do, people who process this way see their high achievements as fluke after fluke and begin to think they're frauds and their self-confidence plummets. She has had good results counseling high school students that it's simply a different way, not a bad way or the "wrong" way. And with that in mind, I'm going to stop trying to plunk out the revised first chapter of my novel, and go outside to do something fun while I'm processing.

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