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Posts Tagged ‘University of Wisconsin Madison

Why I Like the Dumb Sketch Approach to Life

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The Lure of Rough Drafts, Quick Observations and Badly Drawn Lines

I made this dumb sketch when visiting our son working in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison holds lots of memories for Mrs. Kirkistan and I: we went to school and met at the UW, we met amazing people who remain friends today decades later and made big directional choices. It was a place for fiddling with and setting trajectory—it still is that today.

Like most summer weekends there was a concert on the Memorial Union Terrace. This jazz festival (see dumb sketch) was running all weekend. These days it seems all of Madison turns out at the Terrace.

MadisonJazz-06282013Yesterday I quoted photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson likening his camera to a sketchbook: it helped him instantly sort the significance of an event. And that is exactly what sketching does: it is an entirely imperfect representation (at least my sketches are) of what we all saw. Dumb sketches invite participation, which is why my colleagues and I often employ dumb sketches as we work through a direction with our clients.

One of the functions I relish as a copywriter is this responsibility to provide a rough draft. The rough draft is this work of writing out the position or power of my client’s product or service so others can respond. Or sometimes I’m summarizing and sharpening the science behind a product so we can see more clearly why it is important. Rough drafts are both right and wrong at the same time. The power of the rough draft is to set a thought out in the open where others can reach and tag it. After all, you can’t change something that doesn’t exist. The point is collaboration: how is this right? What do we know that can make this more right?

Saying aloud what we know and what we believe is the verbal equivalent of a rough draft. And saying aloud what we know is more than helpful. It is part of the human condition and not to be missed. Our conversations reveal who we are and what we know even as they and invite participation. Getting it wrong sometimes is part of the deal.

That seems like a good approach to life.


Image credit: Kirkistan

Transcripts tell a story. That story needs framing.

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Every story needs context.

Every story needs context.

Recently I applied for entry in an academic program. I had the opportunity to read my college transcripts from a couple decades ago. My shadowy recollection of college was that I started in electrical engineering, didn’t care about the classes (hated them, in fact) but soldiered on because that was the clear path toward economic security—or so I thought. Eventually, the engineering department and I sat down together and had a frank talk. Both of us felt there just might be a better place for me elsewhere at the UW-Madison. That’s when I made the switch to study philosophy and immediately felt like I had come home. Twenty years later, the cold hard facts on the transcript were much worse than I remembered. Yikes!

Subsequent experience and studies helped me understand there are some paths I am meant to walk down, and some I am not. Engineering was not one of those paths. Writing was and has been since. In applying to this particular academic program, I made the case that some of us learn what we’re about later in life. I tried hard not to say “slow learner.”

Whatever part of life we’re in, there’s a story that needs to be told. A story waiting for us to tell it. Where the story starts is not where it ends (I’m thankful for that). And even our retelling of the story makes it stronger, validates it, and causes growth in all sorts of ways in us and in our listeners. The guys who hung around Jesus the Christ told stories of what he did and who he was, especially after he died and came to life again. New Testament writers called them “apostles,” which means “ones sent to act on the authority of another.” (Donald K McKim, Dictionary of Theological Terms) Part of what these apostles did was tell stories. These stories gained traction as time went on and became cultural foundations (as well as personally life-altering for me).

Our communication is and always has been marked by the stories that help us understand our experience of life. Sharing our stories helps us grow.


Written by kirkistan

January 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

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