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Finding the Language of Your Dreams

January 20, 2010

I am a poet. This is one of my public dreams. Why do I write poetry? Of course, I’m a wordy kind of gal. Others may delight in mathematical equations and the dance of numbers, but I love words, and most especially I love the challenges of poetry. When I write an essay, I am not constrained by form. There are patterns to an essay, of course, but the content can go on and on and often does. Not so with poetry whose formulas often require subtraction, not addition.

I’ve been rereading Ken Robinson’s (2001), Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative, and I refound (Note: Refound is a word even though your computer might not recognize it. If you Google® it you will find that it has multiple definitions, but here I’m using it linked to research. If you read or research a lot, you will discover that you “lose” crucial elements of your explorations and can refind them as you revisit favorite sources. This is why I am a believer in owning actual books and in flagging things of interest with fluttering yellow Post-Its®. Note within the note: I have Post-Its® of other colors, but like the good china, I find it difficult to use them except on special occasions.) the following information that makes sense to me:

Many people have problems with mathematics. Sir Harry Kroto sees this as a linguistic problem. People don’t speak mathematics. They see it as sort of a puzzle, the point of which isn’t wholly clear. Trying to appreciate equations if you don’t speak mathematics is like trying to appreciate a musical score if you don’t read music. Non-musicians see a puzzle; musicians hear a symphony. Those who speak mathematics look through equations to the beauty and complexity of the ideas they express. They hear the music. For the rest of us, grasping mathematical beauty is like trying to read Proust with a French phrasebook. (p. 131)

I speak poetry. I do not speak mathematics easily. I am a foreigner in its land and have learned to speak its language well enough to survive. Although I am married to a musician and am the daughter of a talented musician, the language of music is one that I once knew well, but have forgotten. Music is a competence I developed early in life, but it has never been a joy to me. I once played the piano quite well and it’s not that I cannot and do not appreciate music, but rather that it is not a primary passion nor a competence and talent that I choose to pursue. My only creative musical output now is the poetry of lyrics.

Robinson calls this finding your medium. If you are interested in actualizing your dreams, finding your medium is crucial. School can help, but it requires deliberate attention to discriminate among the things that are appealing and that you may even be good at, and those that will activate your passions.

What is your medium? What is the language of your dreams?

I get up at six in the morning. I wear cotton clothes so that I can sleep in them or I can work in them—I don’t want to waste time. Sometimes I work two or three days without sleeping and without paying attention to food.
• Louise Nevelson, artist

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