On Capote and motivation in broken logic.

I’m learning lessons from every situation that gives me a tiny chance at learning something, that is everything that happens with me, everything I do, every consequence and reaction that follows. This post is a perverse version of the original impulsive blog post I drafted a couple of weeks ago, during and right after I watched the movie “Capote”. All this time has allowed impulsiveness to subside. I will now try to work on the draft, in cold blood. I know it will be a bizarre piece of writing, but I can’t keep thinking about having this in my drafts as a very heavy burden anymore, so let me have it out.

*****

As I allowed myself to blog the way I want or see fit for the moment, I’m writing an impulsive post again after I watched “Capote”. In an odd way that is so typical of me, I both enjoyed and suffered watching it. This is exactly the kind of film (not only a film, but a story too) that makes me tick and also gets me have a lump in my throat. This time it was powerful on several levels.

Aside from the non-fictional In Cold Blood story itself (which is one of the books that affected me greatly, as TC character said it would), my mind couldn’t but keep being focused on the writer. That is, on the image of a writer that Philip Seymore Hoffman was picturing for me and which I was closely watching, noticing, paying attention to, getting emotional about.

I see the writer’s pains and torture that lead him to create something extraordinary.
I see how different a writer at a social gathering is from the same man working at his desk.
I see a writer as a sly and tactical man who knows he needs to manipulate people and their emotions for the sake of his art.
I see the way experience has to be lived and suffered through to become real.

For me all these random observations in the flow of the story line, which is a real story line of one particular writer, open up a thinking direction. How knowing or trying to grasp the author’s individuality, intentions, reasons, idiosyncrasies can help me review and re-visualize the image of his writing I have. That idea, I very well understand, must make little sense, for which I apologize and move on to another part of these musings.

*****

I realize it can be seen as absurd to bring together TC writing and students essays or whatever other writing you get them to do.
But maybe – just maybe – … I want to think ELT and just see what happens.

To track my line of thinking this should be helpful:
It wasn’t a plan (it never is) to get myself to write something after I watch the film. On some other day, I might not even finish watching it. But now that it is happening, I’m looking inwards and question myself: how did you get motivated to make these notes in order to later put them together in some more readable form? Zooming this inward look out, the next question is this: how do you motivate anybody to have ideas? Bringing the focus onto my class: how do you find a way to impress each and every student in such a way that they are truly motivated to do stuff?
You can’t know what would make them tick. Even if you think you do (O. likes football and P. is keen on arts and music), you have no idea, in fact.

***** broken logic line *****

Think writing again – just how utterly frustrating it feels to have limited vocabulary. I am fed up with the words I keep using again and again. That just makes me think of students, any level really, who have an idea they want to express immediately – and feel for words as if they’re drowning, and while doing that (I’ve seen it plenty of times) they get distraught at how long and how much effort it takes, so they give up. They either give up on expressing their point, or on their mission to search for a word which would convey the sense of their thought more accurately (possibly never as precise as it is there in their mind).
I’m right there with them, these students. We are none of us Truman Capote.

“I know what “exacerbate” means…there’s not a word or a sentence or a concept that you can illuminate for me.” (quote from the film)

*****

So I keep wondering … how motivation that gets me to write is different or similar to motivation that can get students to do their homework, write in their notebooks in class, listen to what their groupmates say in a class, care to write an assignment on their own. I keep wondering if it’s in my power (or if I need to care about it that much at all) to look for and find this something that can motivate them to think. Even if English is not their most favourite subject, not anything they’d readily spend hours doing, even then. Motivation seems to be a shallow, insufficient term to help this.

I believe there is a lot of confusion for both learners and teachers who are, or crave to be, aware of their learning and teaching.

*****

At the end of this mess of a post I’m thinking 3 words. Move. Motivate. Manipulate. That’s what I’ve seen Truman Capote do in the movie. And here’s what Truman Capote himself said in a film-interview here (I hope you watch this till the end, it’s quite interesting and on another level stunned me with the portrayal of TC that P.S. Hoffman did).

I always have this theory… That if you want to move someone else as an artist …you yourself necessarily must have been deeply moved by what it is that you are writing. But you must keep exploiting that emotion in yourself over and over and over and over till you’ve become completely cold about it… I mean so that you no longer laugh, say, about whatever it is that made you laugh… You see it like it was some extraordinary specimen, but you know that it had that effect on you, personally, so that you know that if you can reproduce it you can make it have exactly the same effect on someone else

*****

The lesson I’ve learnt is to never mix different film genres on one day. The Big Lebowski is a hilarious movie clearly deserving blog posts written about it, but its effect on some impulsive posts has been proven destructive.

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3 thoughts on “On Capote and motivation in broken logic.

  1. Hana Tichá says:

    A very interesting perspective on motivation, Anna. I appreciate your ability to sympathize with your students and I totally understand what you mean when you say: ‘….just how utterly frustrating it feels to have limited vocabulary. I am fed up with the words I keep using again and again’. This is how I feel when I write in English but it is the need to express my ideas that motivates me to improve my writing skills, and I hope it works for my students as well. But even when I struggle, and I can’t help using the same words again and again, I actually create my own, unique style, which I refine and polish before I take it a level upward. This process is sometimes really painful but the outcome is so satisfying. On a more pragmatic note, what is my role in the classroom? As I see it, it is to inspire and to ‘plant the urge’ in my students to get out of the painful phase. And when this urge settles within them and they taste the sweet flavor of satisfaction, I have them hooked forever. 🙂 Thanks for this post. You always get me thinking ….

    • annloseva says:

      Thank you for this comment, Hana. As I closed my eyes and hit published, I was sure it was/would be not the kind of a post for comments. I really appreciate it that some parts of my ramblings resonated with your experience..that really means a lot. Thank you.
      Struggle is the word) And I believe it makes you/us in a way closer to students, more understanding. Exploring our own ways to refine and polish language skills seems such a good helping hand in teaching.
      As for inspiring students, I don’t know.. I think I envy you maybe) I don’t have this strong belief, or evidence to base this belief on, that my role as a teacher has ever had such a big influence. I sure have something to work on))
      I’m most happy if what I write (=my thoughts in *ir*regular forms and shapes) can get people other than me thinking! Thank you.

  2. […] of how obsessed I am with writing about (my) writing, don’t hesitate to look here, check this out and click this […]

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