I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was five years old. “No Socks for Sally” was a four page saga starring my family’s yellow labrador, Sally. The story follows our protagonist, Sally, as she grapples with the tempting allure of snacking on socks and the iron fisted rules imposed by human authority. In a wise effort to quell the conflict between human and dog, our author offers an enlightened alternative to socks: one shakily drawn tennis ball. With the simplicity of this singular illustration the author at once restricts our imagination and simultaneously begs us to look beyond the page, to see a world rife with objects appropriate for canine palates. Just as the plot thickens, the story ends abruptly and illegibly. The author’s failed attempt to spell one crucial word as it sounds leaves us with a mysterious cliffhanger, “Come on Sally, let’s go outside ______.”
In the absence of a closing phrase, did your mind offer a unique conclusion? I'm sure it was just as riveting as the original. Like a game of Mad Libs, this life is open-ended. We can try to follow a rough formula to fill in the blanks, but whether the resulting syntax is hilarious and perfect or ill-fitting and awkward is largely out of our hands. That was a Mad Libs inspired detour, but it felt profound, so I’d like to keep it in here.
My mother obviously thinks “No Socks for Sally” was a brilliant idea with flawless execution. While I’m inclined to assert the finished product was completely unremarkable, my mother’s praise may be well-placed for more than sentimental reasons. In adulthood, I rarely follow-through on ideas like I did that day in 1995. When did I stop letting my ideas play out in real time with washable markers, Elmer’s glue, and construction paper?
A partial answer lies in our ability to manipulate abstract concepts in our minds, which begins to develop around age 6. As we become more skilled in abstract thinking, we’re taught strategies to organize this thinking into plans and outlines. The chaos of working through a boundless idea becomes streamlined. Maybe in this process we lose some of the freedom and wild excitement of having great ideas. Another consequence of this structured thinking is premature consideration of an idea’s end result, and associated valuations of success and failure. Fear of failure, especially at the start of an idea, is where I hypothesize we lose the majority of thoughts with great potential. In an effort to trust my ideas, I’ll be working to leave success and failure attributions to hindsight. I'll let more new ideas manifest freely through action, which should make for some complex doodles. I’ll keep you posted on how this effort works out.
Outside of EdLab, I’m a masters student in the Developmental Psychology program and have a BA in English from Colgate University ‘12. Prior to enrolling in graduate school, I worked in digital marketing data analytics and strategy. My dream application of what I’m learning would be creating games and media that teach as effectively as they entertain.