Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's Your Thinking Cap? For Me, I Have To Have Something Tied To My Head Before I Write to Contain the Thoughts

Last night, my colleagues (a Louisville connection) had me over for dinner and for a pre-semester gathering before the madness of teaching begins once again. Of course, they have two young boys under five, so they have few gaps from the madness. Madness is what they know in southern Connecticut.

While we were eating, Shannon asked her son a question and he responded, "I'm thinking."  She replied, "Do you need your thinking cap?" and, within seconds, her son ran to the kitchen to fetch one. It was instinctual and beautiful. He returned with a colander from a drawer and placed it on his head. It was then he remembered what he wanted to say.

I laughed and admitted I, too, put things on my head when I'm trying to write (although a colander is a novel idea). At times, objects on my head are unnecessary, but when I REALLY REALLY need to concentrate, I have to contain my thoughts by wrapping them up.

Why? It's a superstitious, metaphorical thing. My brain is active, whacky, fast, and alive creature and it is very hard for me to concentrate on one thing for a designated amount of time. Had I been born in the 1990s I'm sure I would have been prescribed Ritalin, but as an 70s-80s kid, I was merely known as creative and/or eccentric. It works for me.

Sometimes I use scarves. Other times, I sport a series of hats I keep around the house. I've made turbans out of bathroom towels, head robes out of blankets, and box toboggans out of, well, cardboard boxes. I've been tying things to my head while I write for as long as I can remember. Whether it's a tie, a belt, or even a series of grocery bags, they must be worn when I really have to write. In my office at Fairfield, in fact, I have a drawer full of items for emergency writing. When I was working on my second Masters degree, Environmental English: Sustaining the Environment through the Marriage of Earth and Words, my roommate screamed at me, "Seriously? You're wearing a couch cushion on your head!" I was 25 or 26 years old, but I got the thesis done.

A Louisville Connection
Even while working voraciously on my dissertation, "A Responsibility to Speak Out": Perspectives on Writing from Black African-Male English Language Learners with Limited or Disrupted Formal Education, I contained my brain symbolically with medical bandages, toilet paper, or even my dog's leash. It's simply a cure.

My brain has always been excessively creative - sometimes to a point beyond control - so the headgear thing works as a panacea. When I go off on a random rants of silly wackiness while teaching my students will often stop and say, "um, that was interesting." I admit to them, " I only unleash, vocally, 1/100th of what goes through my mind in a second."

I wear things on my head to contain what comes out of my mouth (or fingertips). I wear the title of World's Most Random Man with pride.

When things are tied to my head I am focused.  I am productive. That is why I I hope this kid wears his colander for the rest of his life. 

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