Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Create. Document. Organize.

Let’s get serious here. Enough of epiphanies, ecstacies and euphorias. I want to talk about what really matters, about the great taboo subject that few brave souls ever broach in public and yet, secretly we suffer it all alone. Every day,we walk by our colleagues in the halls or people in the street, all bent over from carrying the same weight and yet, reluctant to look a fellow human in the eye and ask for help. I’m talking about the big question, not these trivial matters of cultivating the extraordinary promise of children in schools or expressing the inexpressible through art or maintaining a sustainable eco-system and a genuine democracy that gives voice to the people. Brace yourself as I say out loud the unsayable: What the heck do people do with all their stuff?

I’m sitting at home with a room overflowing with the detritus of a busy summer. Notes, evaluations, CD and DVD gifts from students, books, instruments, pile after pile of stuff that begs to be sorted and stored, read, viewed or listened to, filed or recycled. My house is small, the file drawers and bookshelves and CD shelves already over-filled and I was already behind from before the summer. So now a modern dilemma stares me in the face and has me trembling in fear.

If I begin to sort through it all, try to decide what to keep and what to throw away (always a laborious process with me—the moment I throw something away, I find myself needing it three weeks later), decide how to file it so I remember where it is and where to keep it (remember—small house), it could easily take four hours a day for the entire four months I have off. Open that box and all the demons will come rushing out.

This is serious. Especially if I add sorting the existing files of notes from all the courses and workshops I have taught since 1975, the business from my stints on various boards and committees, my old school planning books and school stuff, the old Orff Echo magazines and Orff Conference booklets. Not to mention the thousands of digital photos sitting unused and unseen and hard to find on my computer and several external hard-drives. Not to mention the actual files on my computers, And certainly not to mention the thousands of e-mails I have trouble just erasing, thinking I might need something in one of them some day. And sometimes I do! And if I got into my basement record collection and horror of all horrors, cassette tapes, I would never be seen in human company again.

Create. Document. Organize. Three steps in the Sisyphusian cycle whose end we never quite reach. But sometimes we kind of do—we’ve taught the class and marked it in our planning book, performed the concert and put the CD recording on the shelves, took the vacation and put the pictures in the scrapbook. This Fall, I’m in the process of writing a new book, creating yet more stuff. But this will be a pleasure, because a book remains the happiest of technologies, at once creating, documenting and organizing—and in a form which can reach others as well, get out into the stream of public discourse.

Indeed, the primary motivation of all the books I’ve written is to gather, organize, clarify, document and get out to the public the work I’ve done so I can free up space to do the next thing. But since I’m still creating while I’m gathering, it’s a moving target. Having published seven books, I’ve been seven books behind myself ever since I published the first! My list of backburner projects is so long there’s barely room on the stove to cook today’s meal.

So while we complain about work and having to fit into a schedule, with free time, you have to decide what will demand your attention today. To write and create? To gather and document? To organize and file? So many choices. It’s exhausting!!

So if any of you have any tips about how to file papers, store photos, clean up the virtual desktop (is this what I-Cloud does?), I’d be happy to hear them. Better yet, if any of you want to come to my house and help me do it (for a fee, of course), let me know.


Now excuse me while I go clean my desk.

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