26 June 2008

Unrelated Goals: Making Motivation out of Nothing

I have been very busy, but I am feeling better now.

It's nice to have two very relative terms squished together as an excuse. What exactly is "busy" and how much is "very"? In more concrete terms, I have had enough tasks to perform in consecutation that to sit and write had been a chore, or if nothing else, unsettling.

As for feeling better, I have obviously found a moment to sit and explicate on matters of a linguistic, literary, or educational nature. In this particular case, I am expounding on the psychology of writing.

I could publish the bits and pieces that I had forced through a strainer, once-solids I had mashed with large flat piece of metal against the bottom of a pasta pot, hoping that the tubes landing on the other side are usable for something. Needless to say, it's very hard to form any sort of particular out of something as unruly as liquefied thoughts. Mostly they will spend their times wallowing in the confines of digital space on my hardrive.

Feeling better usually follows some sort of success. In my case, I have successfully acquired and organized a resource library. It has nothing to do with the sharp mind of a child suddenly grasping and applying a concept, or of a piece of literary gold recieving something it deserves. No, just pure manpower.

The school district has apparently for several years offered their discarded text and library books in a four-day giveaway after school lets out for the summer. This is the first year I noticed. Once inside with a couple of sacks, hoping that I find at least that much interesting to take away, I found that every discarded textbook from the previous years are sitting boxed on the floor: whole sets gaping with busted bindings and decades of age. I walked out with seven paper-ream-sized boxes in addition to my two bags, and was barely pacing with some of the other book collectors there. My two-hundred-twenty books I removed from the cafeteria that day barely made a dent in what was begging to be reused.

Bringing the books home, I had to face the reality that my cabinet space for teaching resources had been poorly maintained. I did not know what I had or in which pile. Change was imminent, but postponed.

Instead, I grabbed my internet and slipped into Google Library mode; I had used the Google Library for my daughter as a front to my swollen collection of children's books but had not considered using it for my teaching resources before. Amazingly, nearly everything was catalogued in Google's index by ISBN, or at least Title and Author, and adding each text to my library was as easy as "search, click". It says Beta at the top--meaning experimental--which explains why I can't search within my library for anything useful. If that part doesn't change I'm going to have to find another publicly-accessed online library program to use, but for the time being I'm going to pretend Google will fix it. The other problem is that many of my teaching resources are so old they do not have ISBN, are not in Google's index, and can't be added by me. So I still have about 30 or 40 books uncatalogued because of technical reasons.

After I entered every book I had just brought home, after a thorough cleaning, I emptied the cabinet and entered all of those, too. Ah, to remove duplicates! I am very proud that I have been able to reduce my pile by 30 books without giving up the utility of those texts. No, having a program that tells me I have already entered a particular edition is invaluable. I had been sorting the books along the walls of my daughter's bedroom and apologized to her profusely when she couldn't reach her stuff. The cabinet empty, the books sorted, the duplicates removed, and everything accounted for in digital form, I was ready to fill the cabinet again.

I am refreshed having accomplished such an important goal. It has given me an incredible amount of motivation: I'm fixing my home, teaching better lessons, and, by no means least, writing again.

It wasn't easy, but it's a tip I think I can employ next time I need a motivational boost. Simply, accomplish something deemed important.

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