Sunday, January 16, 2011

Into the Baskets!

This is the sixth post in a series about the Digging for Treasure process. Go find the earlier ones at the end of this one!

So, you’ve been observing yourself, digging up bits of the treasure that is your knowledge of the subject that you want to teach. What will you do with all of those bits, with the first step in your knitting design, the way the view from the window looked at the moment you found out you had cancer, the most important question you ask at a job interview?

Basket #3by

Noticing and remembering is just the first step. You will have to capture all of those bits of treasure, gather them into baskets so that they don’t get lost. They’re precious!

I learned about capturing from the Getting Things Done system, and just this piece has made a huge difference in my life.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll remember it!

• Well, no. You can’t remember too many bits at once. Our working memory can hold about seven pieces of information at a time, and retrieving something that has fled into long-term memory seems to be a matter of random triggers. If you add an item to your memory, another one is likely to fall out.

• Besides, when you gather your treasure outside your mind, your psychic RAM is freed up to do more creative observing and thinking.

• As you keep going with the Digging for Treasure process, your awareness about your subject will expand. Connections, ideas, sentences, questions, and images will cascade like jewels through your mind. You’ll need every one of them, written down in detail, to go further with the teaching process.

What kinds of baskets?

Do you think your observations and ideas will wait until you’ve scheduled a time for them? I don’t think so! If my experience is any guide, your best ones are going to come right when you can’t easily write them down. In the car. When you’re almost but not quite asleep. Keep a capture tool with you all the time!

• Sticky notes! When I was observing my art process, I kept a stack next to my art table.
• Index cards. These, along with sticky notes, can be useful in the Treasure Sorting process.
• Paper lists.
• Word processor documents.
• A digital recorder. This is what I use when driving and almost-sleeping.

You can use several different methods. Just dump them into a central place periodically.

No order for now!

You might be tempted, especially if you’re a natural sorter/patterner like me, to start putting things into categories, analyzing them, planning with them. You don’t have to do this now. In fact, I think it’s better not to. Why?

You want as much raw material as you can. Concrete details, stories, emotions. If you start analyzing too soon, you’ll lift yourself out of the concrete realm and into the abstract.

Also, if you don’t start grouping your bits of treasure now, you’ll have much more creative space later, when you go to figure out the concepts you want people to understand.

So: keep the bits separate from each other. If you think of a possible category or concept, of course jot it down! But focus most on the down-to-earth process of observation. That’s where the gold is.

Here are the previous posts in the Digging for Treasure series:

Digging for Treasure: My First Dig
Digging for Treasure: At School 
Knowing Without Knowing 
The Survey: Discovering Your Deep Knowledge
The First Digging: Observation 


  1. Wow, the idea that not categorizing or sorting things is allowed sounds so crazy to me! Not that I actually do it, so much as I feel guilty for not doing it.
    What a concept - the way I naturally work could be a good thing!

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