Monday, November 16, 2009

Love Is Learning

Next time you drive by an elementary school, glance at the playground for a second. What do you see there? Kids running every which way, scrambling up jungle gyms, slipping down slides, dangling from monkey bars, flying from swings. But you also see more than plain old fun and games. You see learning in action.

Childhood is a time when delight and duty naturally dovetail. Those afternoon games of tag do much more than simply divert. Should you break left or right when the kid who's It is only a half-dozen steps away? That's practical instruction in decision making, opportunity cost and game theory. Not that a kid sees it as such. He just likes sprinting around in circles until Mom pulls up with the minivan. But sometime between then and adulthood, we sever the union between enjoyment and education. Instruction becomes drudgery, discipline, a necessary knuckling-down. Play is what we do to escape it.

Now, most of us begin writing because we love it. We love the well-told tale, the fascinating character, the well-wrought sentence. It's our play. Soon, though, style manuals and publication primers, rejection letters and snippy feedback turn it into drudgery. If we want to get better we have to write five-hundred words a day and participate in
NaNoWriMo every year and save our dollars so we can enroll in manifold boot camps.

Now, all these things are fine and truly better than fine. But here's a suggestion: Have a little fun in the meantime. Scribble a fragment. Flesh out a bizarre character. Sketch a setting. Write something out of the ordinary, something unconnected to your serious projects -- something fun. It isn't wasted if you only enjoy it. That love is learning.

(Picture: CC 2009 by