Your Serendipity @ Thursday Thoughts

31 Jan

7:40 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to my upstairs neighbour trundling back and forth and Neil Diamond singing Be

Hello there. A thought. Maybe a couple, but I have been wanting to talk about this for a while. You may, or may not, have noticed that with every Tuesday Tryout exercise and prompt, and with the occasional Friday Freeforall prompts that I make suggestions for, that I tell you to list or jot, as part of the exercise. Note that I say ‘tell’. I don’t suggest, or ask. The jotting and listing are part of the exercise. If we were in a physical classroom, I would fix my beady eye on you and make sure that happens.

Why this insistence? Let’s look at the definitions of each word, particularly the bolded words and phrases:

Jot: to write or mark down quickly or briefly; the least part of something; a little bit — origin: 1526, borrowing of L. jota, variant spelling of Gk. iota “the letter -i-, the smallest letter in the alphabet, hence the least part of anything.

List: a series of names or other items written or printed together in a meaningful grouping or sequence so as to constitute a record: a list of members. Register. List, catalog, inventory, roll, schedule imply a definite arrangement of items. List denotes a group of names, items, or figures arranged in a row or rows: a list of groceries. Catalog adds the idea of alphabetical or other orderly arrangement, and, often, descriptive particulars and details: a library catalog.  An inventory is a detailed descriptive list of property, stock, goods, or the like made for legal or business purposes: a store inventory.  A roll is a list of names of members of some defined group often used to ascertain their presence or absence: a class roll.  A schedule is a methodical (especially official) list, often indicating the time or sequence of certain events: a train schedule. from

I would love to go through discussing each of the above bolded words and phrases and how and why they have much value, but this is already going to be long — you don’t know how hard I am reining myself in. Yes, my eyes are glowing with fervour.

If you go with the first thought, or idea, that comes into your head, you might lose something splendid. Granted you won’t know that, but for me that is a goad. Even going with your second, or third thought doesn’t work in quite the same way if you sit and think, as when you jot notes. The jotting allows the greatest computer of all, our brain, to search, find, sync, and bring forth. If you think Google is a mighty search engine, you are shorting your own. Granted, it’s a different type of search. But, because it is, it requires different methods, in this case the physical writing of notes that allow the brain time and a physical connection between what is in our heads and the paper. The act of writing, itself, is the electrical spark and the bridge.

North Carolina just voted to toss handwriting from its curriculum. Here’s what handwriting expert and analyst, Michelle Dresbold tells us, in today’s Wall Street Journal: Typing doesn’t help the brain develop as much as writing in longhand, a tactile means of expression with roots in scratching on cave walls. With typing, the fingers make repetitive movements rather than connect shapes. ‘It’s a very natural process to take a crayon or a rock and make symbols with your hand. It’s just bringing down things from your brain.’ Without that, ‘children are not thinking as thoroughly.‘(WSJ, 31 January, 2013 — The bolding is mine.)

Think of all the toddlers who pick up crayons, pens, chalk and ‘write’ with them on the walls.Why do you suppose this is a phase of development? They don’t know it’s not to be done. They know only this is what their brains tell them must be done. Does this mean our children are all doomed without handwriting? Of course not. But note what Dresbold says, that they won’t think as deeply, as thoroughly, as when their hands are physically making loops and curves.

Think of it this way, for your own writing. If you have a list you have choices. You also have a list for possible future poems. With a list, you are engaging your eyes, as well. As they look over what you are listing, your brain begins to spot threads, you might have been unaware of, to note connections, to think of things you had forgotten. Listing and jotting allow discovery and exploration, in a way that typing does not. Does this mean that all of you who write at the keyboard are doomed? Of course not. But… see above.

Whew! Thank you. I have been wanting to write this for some time, with the understanding that it will change few minds. I still needed to get it said. Yes, I handwrite all my blogs and every single poem :-D. I start by jotting and listing. Arrows come into a lot, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.

I shall see you all tomorrow for the weekly roundup of prompts; Tuesday for a found prompt; and next Thursday for a couple of links [remember that you can send me things to add].

Happy writing, everyone.




Posted by on 31/01/2013 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , ,

27 responses to “Your Serendipity @ Thursday Thoughts

  1. The Happy Amateur

    31/01/2013 at 9:27 am

    Hi, Margo, I can’t believe they did that: abolished handwriting at school. This is seriously bad. It’s become so difficult for me to write longhand, because I just never do it, my fingers (or my brain) forgot how to link those symbols together. I don’t like that at all, I can feel that it’s bad for me. Just the other day I was thinking that for a start I’d make it a point to write “real letters” regularly this year.
    But (always a ‘but’) I love doing my translations on the computer. The clarity of the printed words and format do the trick for me.

    • margo roby

      31/01/2013 at 11:50 am

      I know, Sasha. Several states have abolished handwriting, now. I was lucky that I not only had to learn handwriting, but that my mentor is a firm believer in using it, at least to get ideas down, if not the first draft, or two. I do get to a point now that I throw the poem up on the computer because my brain needs to see it, as you say about your translations, for: ‘The clarity of the printed words and format’. Translation is different, I think. I would only argue for handwriting, if you were trying to decide between two possibilities for a phrase, and even then, it depends what you are translating. It would almost be like doodling while your brain works over the possibilities.

      • The Happy Amateur

        31/01/2013 at 12:22 pm

        I’ve been translating poetry for while, so I do go through quite a few words and phrases before I find what I need. I do a ton of jotting and listing as I translate, but it’s all on the computer screen. I know that I would be a whole lot slower and less productive if I had to use longhand.
        But 🙂 I’m a grownup and I can make a conscious decision about this. After years of writing longhand. Many of today’s kids just won’t have any choice. It just puzzles me so that people in the school system who are supposed to be knowledgeable about child development, etc. would do such a thing..

    • vivinfrance

      31/01/2013 at 1:49 pm

      and the facility of making alterations and additions, changing order and…and… and reading it afterwards!

      • margo roby

        31/01/2013 at 3:37 pm

        You talking revision, now? The stuff after the poem is typed? Trying to weasel your way out, are you, hmmm?

  2. barbara_y

    31/01/2013 at 10:30 am

    Chastened, she agrees to try. Turning away, she mutters something under her breath

    • margo roby

      31/01/2013 at 11:42 am

      I heard that! I have teachermom ears.

    • vivinfrance

      01/02/2013 at 4:36 am

      I replied to your mutterings on your blog. This teacher is getting uppity.

      • margo roby

        01/02/2013 at 7:32 am

        Only 7:30 in the morning as I peer, bleary-eyed at comments. Yours woke me with a good laugh, ViV.

  3. barbara_y

    31/01/2013 at 10:48 am

    As to writing I hope you mean only that they have discontinued cursive. Horrible thought that children would become unable to express persistent symbolic thought without a computer of some sort.

    • margo roby

      31/01/2013 at 11:44 am

      I do mean longhand with pen, or pencil, or whatever makes your creative heart happy. Of course, you have a fountain of imagery that turns on every time your brain starts to think poem.
      Brain: p…
      B: imageryimageryimagery

  4. vivinfrance

    31/01/2013 at 1:46 pm

    Serendipity poetry

    Margo tells me to list –
    a point that I may have missed.
    In my eagerness to start
    I may have skipped that part
    Why oh why did I resist?

    Margo has told me to jot –
    not something I do a lot.
    I tap on a keyboard
    (which might cause some discord)
    ideas, or words cool and hot.
    Maybe non sequitur, maybe not.

    I dive in head first
    to quench my thirst
    with a burst of poetry:
    Ill-advised, improvised
    and frequently perverse.

    I beg you, Margo: forgive me.


    • Carol Carlisle

      31/01/2013 at 3:21 pm

      Viv I knew someone would make a list before me out here in the West
      Let it not be forgot
      She is the rockin’
      beady eyed,
      wise woman of words
      to whom we must surrender
      and make our list
      and jot
      otherwise our brains will rot.

      and that’s what you get when
      you type and not hand write

      • margo roby

        31/01/2013 at 3:39 pm

        Exactly! You also get a loud laugh from me. I do get such lovely titles. i need to start collecting!

        the rockin’
        beady eyed,
        wise woman of words

        yep, yep

        • Carol Carlisle

          31/01/2013 at 4:20 pm

          Oh good a laugh. Whimsy is in my prime directive 🙂

    • margo roby

      31/01/2013 at 3:36 pm

      Got a poem out of you, didn’t I?

      Always forgiven, ViV.

  5. Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

    31/01/2013 at 3:45 pm

    Hi Margo! Long time no read! I’m here because Viv reminded me of your excellent posts and I want to subscribe.

    • margo roby

      31/01/2013 at 3:53 pm

      Tilly Bud! I see your name on ViV’s blog and miss the days you used to visit! How lovely to see you again. You should find the subscription thing [for lack of a better noun] at the top right of the blog. Let me know if, in fact, it doesn’t reside where I think it does.

      • Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

        31/01/2013 at 4:51 pm

        I ticked the box under the comment. Now I need never miss you again 🙂

        I probably won’t comment much. I am still writing poetry but I don’t blog it anymore. No time; and I want to be able to submit.

        • margo roby

          01/02/2013 at 7:36 am

          Tilly Bud, it will be good just knowing you are wandering through. Commenting takes a tremendous amount of time. I know exactly what you mean about the poetry. I stay with the wordles as a good muscle stretcher that takes me beyond my imagery capabilities. But, there have been times when I have a poem but don’t put it up because of the time that will be involved, or I like it for submission, given revision. I have had several poems that started as wordle poems, published.

          • Tilly Bud - The Laughing Housewife

            01/02/2013 at 7:41 am

            I love wordles and I’ve just written a poem from one that I intend to submit. I know what you mean about them being muscle stretchers!

            Well done on being published 🙂

  6. Annette Mickelson

    31/01/2013 at 11:56 pm

    I jot and list and scribble and draw arrows and circle and scratch out. My little moleskin pages are a mess. And I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    • margo roby

      01/02/2013 at 7:37 am

      Somehow, Annette, I knew you would! I love the act of doing all these things while a poem is evolving.

  7. Hannah Gosselin

    02/02/2013 at 2:06 pm

    Wowsers!! Yeah, I’m guilty as all get-out!!! I’ll make an attempt for all the really important reasons that you’ve so eloquently given us here, Margo. I believe it but time wise I find I get bogged down if I work from paper…I can’t even remember the last time I wrote on paper. :/ Hmmm…But I will try, at least once a week I will anyway. :)’s


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