You have to keep up the rhythm

Published by Lori Pickert on August 2, 2012 at 04:27 PM

As long as I can run a certain distance, that’s all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel ot spin at a set speed — and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage. — Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Why do we have to protect time for doing supported independent work? So we can make it possible for our children to do deeper, more sustained investigations.

How long do you have to do it? How many hours a day? Every day or a few times a week? This quote from Murakami addresses the heart of the issue: to do any kind of long-term project, you have to dedicate enough time and revisit the work often enough to keep up the rhythm. You have to end one session excited about what you will do next time. Then you have to come back before you forget what you were excited about.

“[T]o get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage” — but if you can put in the effort and make the time, you can help your child get into the habit of doing meaningful work.

9 comments

Comment by Beth on August 2, 2012 at 05:14 PM

We have an hour and a half every weekday morning that we call project time (actually, Katie calls it craft time, which, yeah, she's three and that's what she's into right now). It is followed by a snack and then an hour-ish of "play" which often turns into more project time. Weekends are less structured. Right now, I'm not really sure that he has a specific project in mind as much as he's exploring different art media. He wants to know how to make things and manipulate things, so that's what he's doing. When he finds questions he wants answers to, then I suspect he'll move into a different type of use of his time.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 3, 2012 at 08:12 AM

 

following project time with free time is the best because they can keep working if they want to or their project can naturally blend into play.

“Right now, I'm not really sure that he has a specific project in mind as much as he's exploring...”

you’re creating all the conditions for long-term, complex, self-directed learning and he’s building habits and acquiring skills. this is exactly how we do it in the classroom — get the environment set, learn how to use the tools and materials, and then support interests and questions so they can be explored deeply. he seems to be taking to it like a duck to water. ;o)

Comment by dawn on August 3, 2012 at 02:15 AM

oh, i cannot adequately express how much this pearl of wisdom is clarifying for me. i see now that part of my dd's success in finishing a project she started was that i gave her the time and space to work on that project as often as she felt she needed it. she knows she has many sparks of interest but they often fizzle out quickly before they reach a satisfying conclusion. and she was so very, very proud that she made it to the end on her own terms!
i wonder about that precious, precarious line that marks the end of a session. i've seen the disappointing results of not going far enough to build momentum, and also of going too far and overtaxing the creative energy. is that where attentive availability comes into play?
i think i'm going to need to buy your book. this may set the tone for a successful new learning period for us!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 3, 2012 at 08:07 AM

i've seen the disappointing results of not going far enough to build momentum, and also of going too far and overtaxing the creative energy. is that where attentive availability comes into play?”

several things have to come together for optimal conditions. you have to have that dedicated time, and it has to happen often enough to maintain the interest. it has to be a part of the routine your child can depend on. you have to be there with that attentive availability. the tools and materials have to be there. your child needs to come to the space knowing s/he’s going to have everything s/he needs.

there is a learning curve here. that balance between not going far enough and going too far is something you have to work and experiment and be willing to try again to find. but it’s there.

i think you DO need to buy my book. ;o)

Comment by akari on August 3, 2012 at 11:39 PM

Lori, I feel quite supported these days by your book and by your blog and your reader's comments. About carving out time, about prioritizing...
I realized after reading your book that I also was in deep need for help in figuring out how to juggle the car repair, shopping errands, the kitty litter, the laundry and the cooking while there remained a nagging sense that I just am not present enough of the time in assisting my boys in their learning. Having a consistent time in the day to do project work makes perfect sense. I am now working on that. So far I am very much enjoying getting deeper into what they are doing but in the mean time forgetting that lunch and dinner also has to happen... I realize that my working on learning to set time boundaries for planning and preparing will only help my boys do the same.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 4, 2012 at 08:16 AM

 

thank you, akari. :) i’m very glad you are finding support here and in the book.

“I realize that my working on learning to set time boundaries for planning and preparing will only help my boys do the same.” — i think a good test of methods is whether they apply equally well to the adults as to the children. it always rings false for me when an educator wants a child to do A while they themselves would choose B. i think you are exactly right — seeing you prioritize and plan so you can accomplish the things that are most important to you may help them develop the same habits. just as prioritizing that time to work cements the idea that if it’s important to you, you need to make time to do it.

thank you so much for your comment. :)

Comment by Cristina on August 14, 2012 at 09:46 AM

Why, oh why did I not read this post earlier? And I'm not even talking about for my kids! The quote is what I need as a writer. I've been trying to meet with a writers' group, but the meetings have turned into critiquing sessions. I can now tell you without a doubt that it's bad to have something critiqued while it's still in process. I'm trying to re-energize myself to my writing since the last session, eight days ago, where one of my stories was critiqued. It's amazing how the compliments fade so quickly, but the criticisms can reverberate in your head for days after.

At least I learned from the experience. It reminded me to continue to practice sensitivity with my own kids when they are still in the middle of projects. I try to remember that the mess is part of the process. If I need to tell them anything, it should be words of encouragement to keep going.

Thank you for the confidence boost, Lori. And thank you for your comment on my blog. It was something I really needed today.

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2012 at 11:43 AM

 

hi cristina :)

there are problems with writing critique groups — sometimes the quality of the advice is questionable ;) and often it seems like people try to push your writing toward the style *they* like, which i don’t think is helpful!

re: how this post applies to writing, stephen king and ernest hemingway (among others) have said it’s best to leave off writing at night when you know what happens next … so you don’t get stalled the next day but instead can get right to work. :)

good luck with your writing!

xoxoxo

Comment by Cristina on August 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Thanks, Lori, I appreciate the advice!

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