Innovation, Negativity, and Vampires

by mlarents

This blog is about to get all tangential up in hurr.  The musical [Title of Show] has a fantastic song about the negative voices one hears during the creative process.  The song is lovingly titled “Die, Vampire, Die!”  These negative thoughts, or Vampires, creep into our lives and whisper things in our ears when we’re feeling unsure about what we’re creating.  They say things like, “Your teeth need whitening / You went to state school? / You sound weird” or even worse, “Who do you think you’re kidding? / You look like a fool. / No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough.”

Getting to hear about Makerspaces, the R-Squared conference, and Innovation in libraries last week, though meant to inspire, only left me with about forty-three Vampires.  During the walk home from class, they nastily said, “What could you possibly contribute?” “You’re not brave enough to take a risk.” “You’ll just end up failing.”  The pressure to be innovative was real; the feelings of doubt and insecurity were huge.  I tried arguing with the Vampires, “But I don’t want to be passive!  I want to create!  I want to look at things differently!”  I only grew meeker while they grew louder.  I fell asleep that night with figurative Vampires buzzing around my head.

The following day, I received an email from Gretchen, a YA librarian, with the results of a teen summer reading program I worked on with her this summer.  One of the most common complaints Gretchen received after summer 2011 came from a set of teens who enjoyed reading, but felt they took a longer time to complete than most of their peers.  They were frustrated that they’d spend hours reading, but could never hope to catch their read-speedy counterparts in terms of page count.  Gretchen listened and for summer 2012, did something wild.  Something mind-blowing.  Something out of this world crazy.  She asked teens to count minutes instead of pages.  It’s a little thing, I know, but the results proved that it meant something to those teens.  I read through the results, there was more participation, more competition, and a better sense of accomplishment.  With the completion of the summer reading program, what did they like the most?  Counting minutes instead of pages.

Without even realizing it, my room was quiet.  The Vampires had left.  Innovation doesn’t have to be grand, it doesn’t have to be particularly dignified or note-worthy.  Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak, a different perspective, and successful change can happen.  I still want to be Innovative and the Vampires are probably lurking around somewhere, but some of the pressure has been lifted.

Whether big or small, our voices matter.  And to you, my Librarian Vampires, prepare to be forever squashed.

Bowen, J. (2006). Die, vampire, die! [Recorded by Susan Blackwell, Jeff Bowen, Heidi Blinkenstaff, and Hunter Bell]. On Title of show (original cast recording) [CD]. New York, New York: Ghostlight records.