The most helpful and inspiring workshop I ever went to at University was a voluntary one.
Only 6 or so students turned up, all seeking the answer to the same question: How can we get top marks in our essays with this teacher? (From what I remember the class was on French existentialism!)
I think we all expected to be pointed to key academic texts we could discover the answers to the varied essay questions in, or to be given a secret or two by the teacher. But as far as I recall, there was none of that.
Instead, the teacher told us that what distinguished a good essay from an excellent essay was inspiration. She told us that too many students looked at an essay question, researched as much as they could and collected the information together into a fluid piece of writing. Perhaps they spent hours doing this and then came back disappointed that the highest mark they could ever achieve was a 2:1. (a ‘B’ on the University marking scale).
She told us that if we wanted to write interesting 1st grade essays then we needed to divide our essay writing into three parts:
2. Thinking time,
She told us Starbucks was essential to essay writing.
She told us that as much time should be spent thinking about the research we had done, with a notebook to jot down thoughts and questions, than should be spent with our head in our books.
Perhaps to others it had been obvious (although due to the lack of first grade essays, I doubt it!), but I had NEVER seen the importance of thinking time before. Surely that was just procrastination?
That semester I wrote the first essay I enjoyed writing. Sure, some of the delving through books was a bit monotonous, but interacting with the research and exploring my own ideas led me to really engage with the subject. For a week or two I pondered on and grappled with the different ideas; questioned the research I had read and put forward my own ideas and opinions. It was the easiest essay I wrote at University and it just flowed. It was also the first essay I received a ‘first’ in.
And today, essentially, that is how I write:
1. Spending time with God and engaging with His word, reading and life experience (Research)
2. Pondering, questioning, praying and taking notes often over a week or two (Thinking time)
3. Bringing the thoughts together (Writing).
And that is how a blogpost usually comes together, generally over a week or two.
First comes the living, then the resting in Him and then the writing.
How do you engage with creativity in your life?
Do you have time to put in thinking time?
Blessed is the one…who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither –
whatever they do prospers.
Psalm 1: 1-3