A self-guided writing course

I had been hopeful that this year I might be able to study a course in science communication at university, but due to an already stretched income and now added financial constraints (I need a root canal), I’m having to postpone that idea.

However, I still want to become a better writer so intend to use this blog as an outlet and accountability for this task. In reality the real learning from tertiary study comes from practise rather than attending lectures so my intention is to continue with my goal of writing something every day. I will also read around the topic and find ways to put that reading into practise and try forms of writing I’m less comfortable with. So much material is available online now that I am sure it won’t be difficult to cobble together a curriculum which will train me in what I need to learn.

An advantage of publishing my own website is my progress (or lack of) will become clear as the year ticks by, and it is a public record so I cannot fool myself into thinking I’m doing better than I really am by keeping my work hidden. To help me learn, comments and feedback will be much appreciated because it is difficult to spot my own mistakes, especially when something I’ve written is hard to follow or too technical. I already know that one of my weaknesses is understanding a topic in my head but not getting the full story into writing so that the text does not flow and skips crucial concepts for the reader to know.

Always an idea

I read to discover meaning.

Obviously there is meaning in the words I read. But there is much more than that. I keep reading to experience the jolt of realisation when something finally clicks.

It’s this jarring shock which keeps me searching, drives me to read more.

I read to not understand.

The emotional impact of a poem that baffles me.

Reading is an exploration of the human condition, seeking the edges, searching for the core. Pursuing a phrase that smacks me out of the mundane into profundity. It is a drug, an elusive hit hidden within text. When I find it tectonic shifts of insight occur, a tsunami washes away the dross of trivia.

The effect can last for hours, days, weeks even. Then the search continues for another hit, never knowing where it might be found; a web article, a book, a poem, graffiti in the street. I can’t describe what it might look like, could be a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter.

Always it is an idea.

April in review

A look back at what I’ve learned in April 2015.

I have recently begun reading Emily Freeman’s blog Chatting at the Sky. Emily has a practice of looking back at the end of each month to review what she has learned before plunging into the next month. I like this idea so am trying it myself. As an insatiable learner it may help consolidate what I’ve learned and give some insight as to where I should focus in the upcoming month.

1) Bible reading

I read an average of 4.3 chapters of the Bible per day in April. This is a little below my target of 5 per day but close. Some days I did not read the Bible at all and this is something I’d like to improve on because reminding myself of the full story of redemption and the encouragements, commands and prohibitions in Scripture is important to build up my faith.

2) Blogging

I joined the Clumsy Bloggers workshop for NZ$2 at the beginning of April using a 99% off coupon. So far the course has covered: Design & Layout; Consistency & Content; Titles, Formatting & Comments; Images; and Social Media. Mostly it is revision for me but good reminders to put work into some of the basic building blocks of my blog.

3) Evil abounds in this world.

At the very beginning of April Al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan university, killing 148 people. Later in the month ISIS released a gruesome video of the killing of 30 Ethiopian Christians. There are many horrifying reports of the slavery, rape and torture of women and children by ISIS fighters. Other news reports featured Burmese men being used as slaves on fishing boats in Indonesia. Slavery is also rampant in the clothing industry. I would like to do more than wring my hands in despair.

4) ANZAC Day

In commemorating ANZAC day, our family learned more of what our grandfathers experienced in the second world war and also some details of the Gallipoli campaign that caused me to question some of the stories we have been fed about the history of our nation.

Books I’ve read

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett (Kindle edition)

A chronicle of learning what prayer means when life is a bit chaotic and has squeezed out the ability to have standard issues ‘quiet times’ with God. Micha discusses Benedictine spirituality in an inviting way and at one point describes prayer as like the soothing rhythm of fly fishing, which I particularly liked! Not a ‘how to’ manual but an encouraging read.

Social media posts

A scan of what I have posted on social media channels gives an indication of what caught my interest in the last month:

Looking forward

I noted that I want to do more than feel bad about the evil happening in the world. As Christians we are called to be a light to the world and a preserving factor in society. I’m not going to suddenly turn into a world changer in the month of May, but I can consider how God could be wanting to use me within the sphere of influence He has placed me.

Fathers missing in action

My 4-year-old daughter helped me carry and stack firewood on Saturday. She saved me several trips back and forth by making numerous trips carrying a single piece of wood each time. Then she saved me from fumbling with fat, gloved fingers on the remote by locking the car for me. It was her pleasure to help me, useful to me, and a chance for her to learn simply by joining with me as I worked.

I know that the skills I’ve mastered best are those learned working alongside someone who had already mastered them and to whom the work seemed to come naturally. My favourite learning style is probably that of an apprentice. I find myself wishing more of this happened in the church.

I don’t really have a spiritual father so have used a lot of trial and error in following Christ. We need spiritual ‘fathers’ to teach young Christians how to live out their faith (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). Unfortunately it is rare to find such people in the churches of New Zealand, many who should be mature are still captivated by the world and its ambitions, others have been beaten down by life and feel like they are barely holding on to faith themselves (Hebrews 5:12).

What is a father in Christ like? The apostle John expresses it this way: I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning (1 John 2:13). The disciple Jesus loved calls those who know Jesus intimately, ‘fathers’. No matter how old a person may be, Jesus is from the beginning and has yet more of himself to be known.

If you know someone who has walked long with Jesus and is ever growing in their depth of knowledge of Him, offer that person the respect due a father or mother. Walk with them and allow them to pass on the riches of their intimacy with Christ. This sort of learning from elders takes time and occurs at walking pace. Don’t disdain such a path in this age that demands instant solutions for everything.


Image of firewood: me