Mini Workshop #5 from “Habits of the Creative Mind” subtopic “Exploring”: On Going Down the Rabbit Hole

*This Practice Session is Required – 5 Steps*  Each person will present a summary of their research to the class on Monday the 7th.

To read the preface before doing this work go here: Workshop # 5

This is the practice session assignment:


1. Type the words Ellen Dissanayake into the Google search engine. Press return.

Everyone who does this at the same time will get the same results. We can call this “ordinary research.” If you click on the Wikipedia entry for Dissanayake, you’ll find yourself on a page that provides a thumbnail sketch of the author and her work. Again, in gaining this foothold on Dissanayake’s work, you’ll be doing what any ordinary researcher starting out would do.

2. It’s what you do next that matters. Choose one of Dissanayake’s works that you find online and read it.

3. Your next task is to make your research into this researcher of the extraordinary. (We composed that last sentence with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in mind.) Set aside at least an hour for exploratory research. Begin by choosing a phrase, a quotation, a reference, or a footnote from the Dissanayake work you read and doing another Google search. Read two or more of the recommended links. Then choose a phrase, a quotation, a reference, or a footnote from the second set of works and do another Google search. Repeat. Repeat. And repeat again, until you’ve burrowed down to an insight or a question that you yourself find extraordinary.


4. We call the process outlined above, where you move from one linked source to the next, “drilling down.” Spend at least 30 minutes reflecting on this process. As you drilled down in your research, beginning with your first search about Dissanayake and ending with an extraordinary insight or question, how did you distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary moments of discovery? What choices yielded genuine surprises? Begin a list of useful strategies to include in your repertoire as a curious researcher, a list you can add to as you continue to practice drilling down.


5. Write an essay about your research into the extraordinary that presents a special or artful idea, insight, or question. Don’t write a schoolish “report” about your research. Instead, make something special with your words; write something that rewards repeated acts of attention.

Miller, Richard. Habits of the Creative Mind (Page 78). Bedford/St. Martin’s. Kindle Edition.