Reflecting on Reflecting

Posted: August 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about my own thinking, reflecting on my reflecting as it were.

I am not a speedy reflector as it turns out. I read other bloggers’ reflections on conferences, articles, news. Sometimes it seems folks have finished reflecting and written about an event that is only moments old. In some ways I’m amazed at how quickly others seem to digest and form thoughts. In another way I often wonder if that first post is more a reaction than a reflection, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Both are valid of course. And, I wonder if it matters by what name we refer to them. Is it just semantics? I kind of think not.

So, I think I will try to call a spade a spade, a reaction a reaction, a reflection a reflection.

What does that mean? Well, it means that this is not going to be the place to find the fastest thinking on what I read, see, teach, think. Or, if it is quick, I’ll tell you it’s my first reaction. I can reflect just fine, but I prefer to throw ideas and new information in my head and let it all roll around a while. I think about it, talk about it a little, sneak up on some new ideas while I’m sleeping or in the shower. My first reaction is usually just a starting point and rarely where I end up. It also means I am going to have to believe what I just wrote, not get discouraged when I have not yet posted about something right away, finish my reflection process, and write when I get to the end.

I have already not written about a couple of unconferences/symposium because it seemed “after the fact” by the time I was ready to post. Maybe I’ll try to write a quick reaction right away, just to get going, and then a more complete reflection later.

What I am wondering is, how long does it take other people to reflect and digest?

  1. Maggie says:

    I think of the practice of reflection like a lightbulb. The light doesn’t just go on when it touches the socket. No… instead it takes some alignment… some effort to thread the lightbulb in. That alignment, those threads, that effort… that’s my imagery of reflection. It takes me some time, I’ve got to play with an idea, a reading, a comment, a question, work it and then – eureka! – the lightbulb goes on. Sometimes (rarely) after reflection the connection is a brilliant, white-hot light right from the get go… other times (more customary) the thinking is a bit of a dim light at first but actually gets brighter with time.

    Does that metaphor make sense?

    Oh, who am I kidding? A greater mind than mine has said this all far better than I ever could:

    When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

    Winnie the Pooh
    The House at Pooh Corner

    • mseiteljorg says:

      You have all the good quotes today! And are you saying I am a Bear of Very Little Brain? Or, that it takes many of me to screw in a lightbulb?

      Back to your point, I agree with your description of the process. Sometimes it just happens in a flash, other times not so much. In either case, for me some of the “thinking” is kind of indirect. The ideas just have to mix around by themselves awhile and then I can sneak up on them mingling in new ways (which makes it sound sort of unseemly, doesn’t it). I am a big fan of re-mixing and re-matching. It’s like putting 1 small new thing in your closet and then having it allow you to pull out a combination you had never thought of before even though most of the things were right there in front of you.

      • Eiteljorg says:

        Per your question – “How long does it take people to reflect and digest?” For me, I don’t know that I can put a time constraint on the process of relfection. I tend to think that the topics and ideas that are important professionally and personally are always on my mind…that I am always reflecting on them (considering and reconsidering them in the light of other ideas). Of course, I don’t think about each of them at the same time. A rotation kind of happens (depending on my focus and interest) and I notice that some topics pop up more often than others and some only show up for a split second, never to be thought about again. Also, topics don’t just show up in isolation. They show up in related sets. Your original blog didn’t just make me think about reflection and its process. I started thinking about the role of “time” and just how important and valuable it is to have the time to reflect on an idea. Time, it seems, is something that we all feel compelled to fill with anything but the opportunity to reflect.
        Anyway, enough from me. This is my first ever blog post and writing it is stressing me out.

  2. mseiteljorg says:

    I agree about the time situation. I try really hard not to fill all the available time so that there is time to reflect. As you may be aware, I am not great at being scheduled 24/7. I might be able to keep it up for a bit, but then it’s as if I am revolting against it involuntarily. I think my brain just knows that is not the way I work best.

    I work best by alternating between being really productive in a traditional sense and not working at all–moving back and forth between thinking a lot about something and then doing the more indirect thinking about things, when ideas are just mixing around by themselves. For me that “not working” time is actually a gathering and collecting time. I’m just taking it all in so that there is a lot of raw material to work with in my head.

    I’m working on a post about this and the article in Newsweek about the Creativity Crisis (, but I’m still in the indirect thinking phase. More on that later.

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