I’ve been keeping a journal since about junior high, mostly free-form. I find that writing regularly (when I do) helps to surface what’s working on me. The act of writing by hand, and the visual feedback of seeing things on the page, move me through and beyond churning the same ideas and questions around in my head. Having a structure for the writing doesn’t seem to matter if I keep showing up regularly. As Julia Cameron describes in The Artist’s Way, breakthroughs can appear partway through stream-of-consciousness writing if you stick with it for enough pages and enough days on end.
But I also find structure very helpful. For decades, my New Year’s Eve ritual with friends has involved each of us writing down what we’re ready to let go of, what we want to carry with us into the new year, and what we welcome into our lives. We can share this out loud if we want it to be witnessed, cheered on, supported. On a more day-to-day basis (as time permits) I make a habit of using questions to look ahead at my plans for the day, and often to reflect back on how things went, what I accomplished or learned, what I still need to work on.
Over the past 20 months on #critlib chats, I’ve noticed that many of us dive in at breakneck speed, some squeezing in references to theory, recent blog posts, literature on librarianship and teaching and related fields. Newbies might lurk, or comment on how hard it is to keep up, or wonder if they’re in the right place if they don’t know a lot of the references. (Probably yes, just keep skimming and ask questions or respond, and follow up over time on anything you’re curious about.) Some folks who do apply theory to their work mention using critical reflection to engage more deeply with what they’ve read. Some talk about praxis, as if theory and practice are usually intertwined in their work.
I love the range of inspiration shared in a good conference or a #critlib chat, but am convinced that I also need a slower pace to deeply and personally integrate the kinds of ideas that fly by and spark so quickly with colleagues. And this draws me to exploring and using critical reflection.
I have long been curious about what critical reflection looks like in practice for each of us, and what we can learn from each other about it. Do we:
- Write marginalia to “talk back” while we read?
- Talk through ideas with others to digest what we’re learning?
- Write about situations to propel ourselves toward learning or action?
- Sit quietly to think things through, or see what rises up to work on?
Do any of us have specific tools or practices that might be useful to others?
I’ve shared some brief articles and sample questions (as well as the scheduled time in different time zones) on the page for the #critlib chat coming up Monday, December 19. Feel free to dive in and get your feet wet with whatever you’re drawn to there. I hope you can participate in the chat, and will share a Storify if you want to catch up on it afterwards. If you’d like to expand on your ideas in blog form rather than Tweets, please share a link to your post in the comments below.