Thursday, December 20, 2012

Layered Writing

Multidimensional projects are interesting to teach and both interesting and damnably difficult to write.  "Meditations on Violence" was hard.  Good information, but it never felt organized.  "Facing Violence" was better.  Organizing an introduction to violence around the context was useful and much easier to write.

Violence is one of those things that is dead simple and incredibly complex.  People use violence because it will get them what they want.  What they want dictates how the violence will be used, on whom it will be used... there are always outliers, but the logic is simple.

On the other hand, like any form of communication, violence is incredibly complicated because it is hooked into every other thing.  Relationship tweaks it.  Environment, social milieu, brain chemistry all tweak it.  The magnification you choose to view a situation dictates what you can do.  The more connections you understand, the better you can manipulate things.

Working on the rewrite of the Conflict Communications manual and I am really wishing I could write (or, rather, that humans could read) in simultaneous layers.  It has to build in logical steps from a solid base.  Too much information too early is overwhelming.  Some of it pushes buttons so trust must be gained.  Sometimes you need one concept before you can have the language to understand the next.

That's cool, and that is standard for teaching almost anything.  But I wish I could do it another way.

Maslow is a good starting point for understanding that different motivations drive different behavior.  It is accessible and can be tied into anyone's personal experience.  So we start there.  Great. Remembering to be straightforward that it actually kind of sucks as a theory but rocks as a model.

The second model is a slightly harder sell.  Not to everybody.  There are some people who have experienced deeper parts of their brain, or who have read the right things and understand the concept at least intellectually.  But this has potential to hit buttons or resistance.  Not a big deal since being both true and useful people will get it... but that difference means it comes later.  It can't be the lead-off concept.

But (and this is what is fascinating me right now, not just in writing but in teaching, too) the second concept, once understood, deepens and enriches the first.  Maslow is cool.  Maslow seen through the triune brain model is profound.  And seen again under the violence comfort scale (originally in "Violence: A Writer's Guide")... but there is no way to get people to read and process three things simultaneously.

 I think there are a few books that have to be re-read.  Books that turn into different books once you have internalized the initial concepts.  I think that happens in teaching, too.  Not as often as people think it happens, in my opinion (lots of shitty teachers pretend to be 'nuanced' or 'deep' or --my favorite-- 'coyote teachers').  But there are definitely some things that I knew early and understood late, if you get my meaning.

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So, "Force Decisions" Won the USA Book News award for Current events in 2012.  Yay.

5 comments:

Josh K. said...

Books are linear by nature, are poor repisentations of what is systemic in nature; i.e., circular.

The only way I can see too represent this subject as a whole is through mindmaping/flow charts and systemic modeling.

Maybe what is needed is a change in format.

Start with a Mind Map/Flow chart a way of visualizing/reprisenting the whole and how the pieces interconnect, while being able to zoom in and out for details.

I can see this done interactively in the net & as an app for smartphones.

Of interest:
http://www.watersfoundation.org/images/content/Ladder-2b.gif

Some humor:
http://rhbryant.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/the-fifth-discipline-graphic-1.jpg

http://xkcd.com/895/

Josh

Anonymous said...

Human are by nature 3 and 4 dimension creatures. You can smell the wood smoke of a campfire, hear the wind in the trees, feel the sunlight on your skin - or you can experience - all 3 at once - at the same time. Concentrate on any one - you loose it.
Breath deep and be - synergy - all 3 at once.
Fuse blower level experience.

Charles James said...

"some things that I knew early and understood late"

I like this one, thanks.

Kai Jones said...

Think of it as a degree curriculum--my husband had one year in college with classes in history, English (books), philosophy, etc. and they studied the same periods and, to a certain extent, the same people, in each class, so you could see and make the connections.

Teaching a good foundation in Maslow and the other subjects will help students make the connections. I think of this as writing in a spiral. You thoroughly cover the basics while touching on the higher concepts, then spiral up into dealing with the higher concepts while touching briefly on the basics.

Kasey said...

1) Congrats - that's....wait for it....AWESOME!

2) Whay the hell is a coyote teacher?