Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dr. Seuss's hats of creativity

Ok, I meant to post this quite a while ago. Here, go look at this article about a traveling exhibition of Dr. Seuss's private hats. Not only were they private, he even had them behind a secret door! And he would bring them out at parties, which sounds pretty awesome.

(my kind of hat, over on the right)

I think the exhibit itself would be more compelling than the article, to tell the truth, as it's a bit thin and repetitive, but it did bring up the interesting point that Geisel and his collaborator/editor would pull out hats and put them on whenever they were stuck with writer's block.
"he and Frith would each pick a different hat, perhaps a fez, or a sombrero, or maybe an authentic Baroque Czech helmet or a plastic toy viking helmet with horns. They’d sit on the floor and stare at each other in these until the right words came to them."

I am hoping that the right words would come out in song and dance, or profound silliness. Still, I think that the idea of a writing hat, or perhaps even a closetful of them, is the perfect solution for academics who are struggling with their work. Ideally putting on the hat would give you the new perspective to break through an impasse in revising, or act as a literal "thinking cap" to help you discover what exactly is wrong with that wonky paragraph, or at the very least make you burst out into laughter and not take your problems so seriously --- and if you do not understand why that is so important, then you haven't been around enough academics!

Hmm, I wonder what the proper "job application writing hat" would be. Perhaps Viking horns? Or maybe the wide hat those South American gauchos wear, with the little dangly corks all around. I kinda like the idea of the bobbling as you bobble about for your interfolio login. Mm.

So now I turn it over to you: Writer's Block Hats/Hats of Creativity: yea or nay? Should they be allowed in the senior seminar or only at the graduate seminar level? Would there be penalties for having a fancier hat than your major professor? And most importantly, what would your ideal Writing Hat, the one that would be most helpful or perhaps the most emblematic of your writing process, be?

Or maybe that should be Writing Hats --- if Geisel could have a whole closet of creativity hats, I figure academics need at least a shelf of 'em.


Bardiac said...

OMG, I need a writing hat! (No doubt, a cheesehead, here. /sigh)

Anonymous said...

Love your blog and sense of humour - keep writing.
fellow post-doc in contract-job land

Sisyphus said...

Anonymous! You forgot to say what kind of hat you wear to be creative while a postdoc!!!!

Would it be the V for Vendetta hat and mask? A balaclava? A hood?

Dr. Crazy said...

I had a "dissertation tiara" for exceptionally difficult writing times. I still bust it out when I'm feeling blocked. *I am the queen of literary criticism! I can write anything!* Also, it holds my hair back off my face :)

Dr. Koshary said...

I don't have a writing hat, but I'm starting to think that I need one. A fez would be lovely, methinks.

JaneB said...

I want something in black with a long, sweeping feather and a brim I can pull down to help me out-stare that ornery text... but then I realise that the feather would be a cat-lure and black hat with cat attached is less than intimidating for prose.

I DO though have a small collection of clips and patented plastic things for creating up-dos, and I put my hair up when I need some serious writing mojo (when it was long I used to be able to keep it up with a pair of pencils, which felt REALLY avant-garde and writerly, but these days it's shorter and I need something a bit more grabby than a pencil).

Maybe I should add a feather or two - or a pencil - to an updo as a sort of writerly fascinator?

Belle said...

Oh yeah, I need a writing hat. And a grading hat - that would look a lot like a head vice - or what you'd feel like when finally released from grading hell.

Grading hell - maybe a welder's helmet?

Sisyphus said...

Hmm, I think the welder's helmet is perfect! --- for reading reviewer reports, though. The grading hat is clearly shaped more like this:

I also approve of writing fascinators, particularly if they are fascinating to cats.

Orchard Ranch said...

What a fantastic idea. I've got one of those viking hats here somewhere, I'll try it out tomorrow on a pile of essay exams. The writing tiara is also brilliant (as well as sparkly, I'm sure). Would a pith helmet be appropriate for writing pithy texts?

Sisyphus said...

Orchard Ranch, only if it doesn't pith you off.


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