Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ultimate Reflection

I will never blog again. Blogging is just not natural for me. I do not express myself through writing. Some people said that they sometimes found it difficult to write when the prompt didn't inspire them, but at other times the writing flowed naturally. The writing never flowed naturally for me, even when the prompt provoked a strong internal dialogue or an interesting opinion. I literally have to sit at the keyboard and force the words out every time. Maybe I don't think linearly enough, or maybe I'm secretly a babbling lunatic, but I have to jump around the page, writing down multiple ideas at one time. This is after I've picked a topic, after I know what I'm writing about, and after I have some semblance of a plan for what I'm going to write. I'd still rather gouge out my eyes than write a blog post. It feels like trying to walk on my hands blindfolded or being lost in a cornfield with no shoes or eating Raisin Bran with eyeglass screws mixed in. It's uncomfortable, disorienting, and exhausting.

The only time the writing even came close to flowing was during my post about how it feels to be freshman, a post which I am not including in this 'best-of' because I don't know whether or not I agree with the conclusions I drew in it. The beginning of the post was great--telling the story of my first few weeks on campus was almost fun, even though I was writing it; however the point of the post was to describe freshmen's opportunities to interact with upperclassmen, and I don't really think I accomplished that at all. I just can't imagine that my experience freshman year is generalizable enough to comment on all 7000 freshmen's chances to talk to juniors and seniors, especially since I was definitely not seeking those relationships myself at that time.

The first post I am including is this one about zebra mussels. I think this post is pretty indicative of my writing before the course. I wrote in report format: that is the only type of writing I knew. I think I was able to provide a detailed picture of the situation, and I think my writing was competent; however, I don't think that my tone was at all developed. I was writing a report, not a blog post. I was being objective, not subjective. I was telling about a situation, not commenting on it. No matter how well or poorly written the post was, it missed the point of the blogging medium.

The second post I am including is this one about alignment. By this time, I think that I had developed more of a blog-type voice. I was writing more from my point of view rather that as an outsider. I was voicing an opinion, not just fact. I think some of my personality came through, especially at the end. I really am a humorous person, although I wouldn't guess that that has become apparent through my blog or my interactions with others in the class. The one sentence that I wrote all semester that best reflects who I am and my attitudes toward the world in general is the last one of the post: "The pessimist in me wants to return to the rowing analogy: When we pull together, we go places, but we're all still slaves on a Roman Galley." Incidentally, I feel much more qualified to write a 'worst-of' than a 'best-of.'

The third post I am including is this one about thought processes and communication. This post was a long time in coming. I had been struggling with issues regarding communication the whole semester, and they really came to a head when I was writing my book review and receiving feedback about it. I just couldn't seem to communicate what I thought about the book in any sort of manner that allowed others to pick up on it. I don't think my views of the book were not valuable, and I don't think they were any less valid for being mostly negative. At the same time, I just couldn't convey what I thought without sounding as if I'd entirely missed the point of the book. I also tried something new with this post: I brought in an idea that I'd been thinking about outside of class; that is, the mental and physical selves (which Senge talks about too on p151-156! The theme is echoed throughout the section on mental models, though I don't think the terminology arises again) . I tried to write what I knew rather than trying to develop entirely new ideas. I tried to be an expert for a bit instead of always venturing a novice's guesses. Ironically, this post about communication had a rough comments section with some failures of communication present.

The last post I am including is this one about learning. I really liked this post because of the serendipity that allowed me to write it. I had some well-formed ideas about my own learning, but I didn't have any way to make them interesting. I had no story. I had no framework for expressing my ideas. I went to the EWS computer lab after one of my classes to sit down and hash out the blog post, and that was when I inadvertently chose a seat next to someone who was taking some of the classes I took freshman year. It provided me with a perfect 'grab' for the beginning of the post to get the reader's attention. It allowed me to write about more abstract ideas through a concrete example. The situation gave me a grounded topic to write about--something I've struggled with all semester. This was the closest I ever came to actually wanting to post something to my blog because I had a current, relevant situation in my life to write about.

I learned a lot by blogging. I developed a new skill. I am proud of what I've written. I am glad I took the class. I still don't think I will blog again. Writing a post feels like running a mile: it's a huge chore, but I feel like I've improved myself. Even though I do think I will continue running, blogging is simply too painful for me.


  1. Learning as trial by ordeal...not fun.

    It's probably hard to have a longitudinal perspective on your life, at your age and situation. So here's a bit of mine where perhaps there might be a parallel for you.

    The thing I hated most at your age, absolutely detested it, was getting fixed up. People felt sorry for me and some tried to remedy my situation. I was not grateful. I was mortified.

    When I was 34, I met my wife while on sabbatical at the University of British Columbia. We were fixed up by mutual friends.

    When I was 41 I kind of switched careers from academic economist to learning technology administrator. In the new job I began to find that a good part of the work was fixing up other people - not for mating but for teaching with technology. The true irony in it, I liked doing it. I liked it a lot.

    So never say never. I do hear you and understand the discomfort. If in 20 years irony plays tricks on you too this way, maybe you'll remember me and drop me a line.

  2. The only way I can conceive of having a blog in the future is if I become an expert in something broad-based enough that the audience is scattered, and blogging is the best means to reach them. Wouldn't a mailing list be better, though? Also, by that time, blogging may have evolved beyond what it is now.

    Or maybe my perceptions of 'blogging' will change (which is I think what you meant). It could be something small, just a tweak of the circumstances, but if my internal definition of 'blogging' is changed, I'll concede that I might blog again. After all, communication over the internet is expanding--blogging might grow in ways that I can't see.

    As long as 'blogging' for me includes the vague uneasiness of wondering whether anything I post is worthwhile, or worth the loss of privacy that is inherent in publishing, I don't think I'll be logging on any time soon. I hope I haven't been too disparaging towards the blogging medium; there are actually one or two blogs I've read on a regular basis outside of this class. I just can't envision myself blogging on a protracted basis.

    I just want to reiterate that I'm glad I took the course, and I think I've grown as a result of it.

  3. I really liked reading this post. Even if writing it was a pain, you managed to make it come out entertaining, informative, and reflective.

  4. Senge talks about non-proximate causes. In today's NY Times, Maureen Dowd has a very interesting column that ties our foray into Afghanistan in the 1980s (when the Soviets were the dreaded imperialists there) to the current situation - a boomerang effect after a huge lag. Twenty years is a very long time and economists are rumored to exist to make weather forecasters look good. So, for the record, I have no clue about your future. But I have a healthy respect for irony.