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January 22, 2010

Messy Pages

When I was in fifth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Droge, used science lessons to instruct us not only about photosynthesis, but also on the proper way to take notes and make outlines. She took our notebooks of freshly scribbled knowledge and returned them days later with her comments and grades. I had cramped my hand jotting down every detail about angiosperms and gymnosperms, and yet my grade was a glaring B-. I had, to Mrs. Droge's great annoyance, written across the entire page with no regard for margins.

Mrs. Droge's fifth grade science lessons taught me two things: 1) I might like to be a botanist when I grow up and 2) I should always write inside the margins. Some twenty years later, I've learned nothing more about plants (outside observing my inability to keep most of them alive), and I continue to disrespect the authority of the margin. My best ideas sometimes shoot straight up the side of the page and swirl, upside-down, across the top. For me, messy pages=agile mind.

Why do we teach children to color inside the lines and later train adults to think outside the box? How often do your thoughts carry you beyond the margins?

As a writing exercise, grab a good pen and a spiral notebook and flip the page sideways to write across the lines. What differences emerge in your work?