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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Learning Not to See Part 2: Assumptions Trump Reality

By Rosanne Bane

img_toolsanddownloadsCreative life lessons come from surprising places sometimes and this one comes from geocaching – think John Muir (founder of the Sierra Club) meets Robert Louis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island) meets Inspector Gadget. Geocaching is following a handheld GPS to walk through parks and other public land to find hidden clues and treasure. Most geocaches have “swag” – toys and other inexpensive trinkets – and some have special coins or other nifty, even collectable, stuff. You can read more about “swag” and other geocaching terms on the Forums at http://www.geocaching.com/

Claudia and I recently started geocaching and we’re having a lot of fun (something we both need right now)! Hang with me through a little background; I promise this is an example of Learning Not to See.  

msp_safariWe learned the basics of geocaching in an introductory session at Fort Snelling State Park, then set off on our first geocaching adventure. (Some of Minnesota’s state parks offer free demos and have GPS units you can check out at no cost as part of their Wildlife Safari geocaching program).

We followed the GPS to an information board near the parking lot, where we found a small wooden box with the Wildlife Safari logo on the outside. Inside the box was a sheet of paper with questions; the answers to these questions gave us our next set of coordinates. We entered the new coordinates and hiked down the trail to find the second stage of the cache (all the caches in the Wildlife Safari program have multiple stages, but not all geocaches do).

There was another small wooden box with the Wildlife Safari logo, this time containing a simple crossword puzzle that gave us our next set of coordinates. When we found the cache itself (often an ammo box with a sticker that says “Official Geocache”), we jumped up and down with the kind of goofy, childlike delight that makes our relationship work so well, recorded our success in the log book and took a Critter Card. (Each Minnesota State Park has a different Critter Card featuring an animal common in that park.)

What’s not to like about this? We’re walking with the dog in state parks, seeing deer and other wildlife, getting exercise while having fun, playing with a new toy (GPS) and following a treasure hunt.  When we find ten different Critter Cards, we’ll get a reward from the DNR, but really the reward is how much fun the whole adventure is. And of course in the unexpected bonus of recognizing how I learn not to see what’s there.

We ate our picnic lunch at Fort Snelling and drove to another state park in search of another geocache and another Critter Card. We got the first coordinates from the ranger and followed them to a picnic area with several big information signboards, a shelter with bathrooms, picnic tables and garbage cans.

We looked all over for the small wooden box with the Wildlife Safari logo. There wasn’t one. We checked the coordinates in the GPS and tried again and again, but we just couldn’t find the small wooden box that held our next coordinates. I was on my way to ask the ranger for help when Claudia called out, “I found it.”

“It” was not a small wooden box. It was an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper on the signboard the GPS had led us to that said in big, bold letters: “Congratulations Wildlife Safari Geocachers! You’ve found the second stage in your search. Your next coordinates are…”

I looked at that signboard at least 10 times and never saw that piece of paper. I was looking for a small wooden box, like the ones in the first two stages at Fort Snelling. I couldn’t see what was there, because I was so busy looking for something that wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be there. I assumed there would be another box. My assumptions and expectations made it impossible for me to see reality.

think-outside-the-boxTalk about needing to think outside the box! I suppose the Universe could give me a more obvious metaphor, but if it did, I’d probably be too blind to see it.

We see what we expect to see. We ignore what we don’t expect to see.

What are you not seeing because you’re so invested in finding something that isn’t there? What assumptions are interfering with your ability to think creatively? What expectations are fueling your resistance to your writing?

Do you assume you need a big block of time to write? Or that you have to have certain conditions to write (only in a certain place and at a certain time, only if the room is quiet and there are no interruptions or if you have certain music playing, etc.)?

Do you expect to be “inspired” every time you write and assume that if you don’t feel “inspired,” there’s no point in trying?

Do you expect certain people to “oohh” and “aahh” over your writing? Or do you assume everyone will be harshly critical? 

What do you expect from yourself as a writer? How do you expect your family and friends, colleagues and community, and the publishing industry to treat you as a writer?

What are your assumptions and core beliefs about time and money? How do those assumptions and beliefs influence your writing?

What have you learned not to see?

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2 Comments on “Learning Not to See Part 2: Assumptions Trump Reality”

  1. Erick July 14, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Interesting post. Have you seen this video? I think it further illustrates your point well.

    Our assumptions and expectations do cloud our reality. We have to be ready to challenge our assumptions and actively look beyond them, or around them, or maybe through them.


    • rosannebane July 15, 2009 at 3:31 am #

      Thanks – I have seen another version of this video (don’t want to say more because it would spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it). Check it out, everyone!


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