Skipping Steps

There was a time when I wanted to build exploratory vehicles, like those that study planets and moons, asteroids and comets. Instead, I have chosen to write books.

In diving into the study of classical literature after having written a few books, I have been reminded of a terrible habit of my own making. It is a habit repeated often regardless of career choice or academic interest in my life. That terrible habit involves subconsciously skipping basic steps and running right for creative endeavors without following known procedures. Some have identified this ability as a gift, a few as a reflection of genius, and others as being “someone who just knows things.”  But the sad reality is that while skipping steps can lead to something new, those new creations will not always be free of error. Then again, what inventor ever created perfection with the first try?

To hear my mother tell it, the problem began when I was a toddler who never learned to crawl. I decided one day to simply stand up and walk. To hear the story from my father’s perspective is to learn that I never learned to walk, I simply stood up from a crawl and ran. The terrible habit, you see, was not in my ability to improvise, the terrible habit was skipping steps that I wasn't able to see as necessary. Regardless of who remembered the story correctly, my mother or father, it is important to understand this terrible habit was established that far back in my life.

Is it ever enough to understand the wheel works without having to reinvent it or that planes fly because someone else figured out how to make them do so? Most educators will tell you, there is a pattern that must be followed before driving a car or flying a plane. It isn't so much that anyone can't figure it out in a pinch; it's more about what to fall back on when something goes awry.

According to Bloom’s revised taxonomy, the order of learning goes like this: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and lastly creating. Just as learning to walk normally requires one to first learn how to crawl, or learning to run requires some sort of knowledge of how to walk, each step in the learning process requires comprehension of the last. (I should probably mention here that comprehension was also a problematic issue identified early in my life. It wasn't that I was incapable of understanding, it was simply that I understood differently; another source of confusion for those who are used to following a process, a source for inspiration if you know me.)

In regards to life, the ages that were associated with grades pre-K through 12 were about remembering, and most of the college years were about understanding. The forties have primarily been a time of analysis and evaluation. Despite having written several books now, the truly creative years appear to have arrived. I'm just glad I chose to be a writer as opposed to an engineer of exploratory vehicles. I might have invented some radical contraptions, but by skipping steps, they most likely would have fallen right out of the sky. Thankfully, there's always time to learn.