Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Petting sharks?!?

"Pet the sharks?!?"  My mind reeled that this could really be as we walked into the exhibit for the first time last summer.  A virtuous zoo actually puts dangerous animals away in a secure fashion...not invites visitors to touch them.  Then, my baby reclined comfortably in his travel stroller with snacks as we canvassed our surroundings for potential risk. 

Fast-forward a year later.  Now, I have a two-year-old teetering on the shark-petting pool barrier splashing, reaching, singing, and practically beckoning these sea creatures to our (hopefully) safe little area of the exhibit.  My son can't get enough, much to my chagrin.

While I love "Oceans" because the building is air-conditioned and there are awesome wildlife specimens at which to take a gander, I still can't bring myself to pet the sharks.  Their toothy grins are my first detractor, followed in no particular order by their smmmoooooooth, veiny flesh and menacing fins that glimmer just slightly above the water's surface. 

Shark-petting and writing...a common thread?   

Recent blog posts by Ruth Ayres, Stacey Shubitz, and myself have explored different ways to generate lists of writing topics.  Whether it's a bone map, heart map, hand list, or another extraordinarily personal way to organize subjects about which we're able to write, we should.  We owe this sort of thought work not only to ourselves as writers, but also to the endless supply of fabulous stories from our lives just waiting to shine. These bits and bobs are what make us who we are. 

In Notebook Know-How, Aimee Buckner offers the idea of constructing Best and Worst lists off which to write.  Around the shark pool I got to thinking, "What kind of list would I add shark-petting to?"  Is it something I am scared of?  Is it something that defies reason?  Is it a concept that just seems unnatural?
The latter two lists intrigue me --- they sound much more thought-provoking and multidimensional than the blanket term 'scary'.  Writing now, I'm already starting to mentally scan my files of topic ideas and everyday noticings for items I could quantify these two ways.  I'm thinking about how I could construct the collection in a meaningful way.  I'm also thinking about other non-traditional lists I could create.

Types of list-making may seem mundane to some, or as Ruth Ayres remarked, maybe even perceived as a creative indulgence to others.  But, as writing teachers, we understand that taking the time to actually think through and do the kinesthetic work of drawing and organizing presents an invaluable space for these ideas to percolate.

What would be on your list with shark-petting?
Any ingenious list categories you'd like to share?

I'm percolating... :)

Write on,


  1. I love the connection and the way you wove your personal story into a realization about writing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. @Ruth --- Thanks for the kind words! Coming from you they mean so much. :) I just ordered some new professional books and am looking forward to trying out some fresh ideas on the blog.


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