Where do good ideas come from? Coffee houses (really?)

And I’ve been feeling guilty about drinking so much coffee. HA. Not anymore.

Check out Steven Johnson on Ted.com. He gives a fine talk. Idea convergence… that’s so 21st century. That’s so about the university. That’s so about our honors journey.


What have I done lately?

Lately, I watched some episodes of Firefly. I did dishes. I read some in a few books. I wrote a few posts to a few blogs. I talked on the phone to my dad. I took my son bowling. I emailed a few friends. I bought gorgeous tomatoes and ate them all. I swam and sat in the sun. I sneezed a lot.

And I opened my How to Be an Explorer of the World book by Keri Smith. I had picked some explorations I was going to do, but then I just opened the book, and there was an exploration that was perfect for me: #20.

So I kept track of my small, placid thoughts for a few days (since last Thursday). I write about this on my Exploration page in this blog, but why I’m talking about it here is this: I let Serendipity guide me to that particular Exploration Experience.

I’m a big fan of the idea of Serendipity (so much that I often will capitalize this word… out of respect for having experienced great things by accident–seemingly).

"Serendipity" is a word coined by Horace Walpole? How serendipitous.

Really? Serendipity is a word coined by Horace Walpole. Who’s the father of the gothic novel? Horace Walpole. What 18th century novelists do I love? A bunch, but Horace Walpole is near the top of that list. Which politician from the 18th century do I sort of like a lot? Horace Walpole.

I never looked up this word before. I knew what it meant, but I never knew where it came from. Now I do. I must read that fairy tale about the Persians princes (in translation, of course) and then rethink Horace Walpole–who is cooler now than ever before. Perhaps I need to re-read The Castle of Otranto. I remember really enjoying it.

I’m about to re-read Dracula. I am going to give a talk on the famous Bram Stoker book on Oct. 8 in the afternoon at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Theater in the Mind series (ASF will be putting on a stage version). So I’m thinking several things are serendipitous right now:

  • I am open to new ways of thinking about the world because of this book we are using to explore the world.
  • I thought about how Serendipity may have guided my hand to this particular activity and bothered to look up the word for the first time in my life.
  • There was Horace Walpole, an acknowledged father of the gothic novel.
  • I’m talking about Dracula in a few weeks–it’s on my list of great gothic novels (from my two favorite centuries: the 18th and 19th…). That list starts with Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.
  • In my exploration of #20, I realized at the end of my list when I asked myself what I was thinking just then… I was thinking about my friend, Carol, who loved the gothic and horror and would have been so proud of me for finding my way in the world where I was invited to talk about vampires in public. She would have been so so so very proud of me. She is not alive anymore, but she always lives in my heart.

Understanding that I was exploring a world without her struck me this way: it is a less-lovely world now, but a better one for her having been part of it once.

What on earth?

What on earth are we doing this next week?

Read “Why Blog?” by Alex Reid in Writing Spaces, Volume 2. Reflect in a 300 word post (thereabouts)–think about your own blogging experience so far–what does this article say that means something to you, and/or what might you try because of it?

Read the Montaigne essay, “Of Smells” and revisit Paul Lynch’s “Sixth Paragraph” article.  Then write an essay in a blog post called “Of Music” which mimics what Montaigne does… find quotes about music to pepper your post and allow those quotes to move your writing. DO NOT write a five-paragraph essay. Have fun with this. 300 words or a 1,000 words or a haiku. Do what’s right.

This above by Monday, Sept. 12.

Re-watch the “Everything is a Remix” videos (all three) and write a blog post in which you just muse about what you saw, but also… answer this: what does the idea of “everything is a remix” have to do with academic writing? Especially, the third video could be directly connected to Elizabeth Gilbert… in terms of creativity… but what else would you connect these to? How? Why? Again, minimum 300 words… or more or less.

This above by Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Read the first five chapters of Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig and think about the above videos… and think about writing. WHAT? How is all your thinking about writing changing, growing, becoming another kind of vision? For talking on Sept. 15.

Then a blog post on Free Culture by Monday, Sept. 19. Same general rules apply: how does this connect to you and how does this connect to writing you do now, in the past, in the future?