Looking in and looking out
I have been writing creatively and professionally in various ways over the last 25 to 30 years, as a playwright, scriptwriter and script editor and in my work as project manager. Over this time I have intermittently kept journals which were mostly records of events and related emotions as well as ideas for further development. I have also taken courses in interpersonal communication which have encouraged reflection on actions and reactions. So when reading these articles I had to consider what was new or challenging to me. This of course is a good opportunity for reflective writing in itself. The two key phrases that I come away with are ‘cognitive housekeeping’ from Jenny Moon (1999a, 1999b, 2004) and ‘increased magnification’ from Marsick and Watkins (1990, pp. 36-7).
Moon’s idea of ‘cognitive housekeeping’ captures the idea that reflection is about sorting and sifting, about discovering the mouldy bits behind the fridge and focusing attention on the door that never closes properly. But interestingly this idea of housekeeping your thoughts, feelings and ideas is not really so you can end up with a neat and tidy house. Or a neat and tidy essay or perfectly edited version of Lenny. It’s about thinking about the process that gets you to your end result. And it’s useful at this point, as I shift in some ways from more of an old school idea of a ‘writer’ to a 21st century digital world’s idea of a creator, to focus on this and make sure that I am open to change and listening to what may seem familiar but could also be new.
Marsick and Watkins raise a really useful point when they discuss taking a wider view of an action or emotion rather than narrowing our focus and attention, or increasing our magnification, on an issue. As they point out, it’s very easy to get caught up in the details and their solution to this is a good challenge. That is to look at things in a broader context, to see the connections or threads over a period of time. One example of that for me would be to consider the other times in my life when I have committed to study in order to learn a set of skills or gain a body of knowledge. In some ways it’s hard to return to study again and not be frustrated by the assumptions of student life, or what a student is, or the repetition of things I might think I already know. But this idea of looking back to other times of learning and what I got from those times, what frustrated me about those times and what I walked away with is really useful at this point for me.
So I am both looking at the details, sorting, organising, questioning and then looking beyond the singleness of the details to the connections over time. That’s got to be good!