Photo by Anthony DELANOIX on Unsplash
Course: Writing Biographies and Histories: Recording Stories of People and Places
Faculty Mentor: Janet Fleming Rose
I found Writing Biographies and Histories to be a very informative and enjoyable course! One very informative aspect in addition to the learning components (readings, discussions, guidelines, and forum posts) was the smaller group size, which gave the opportunity to engage, grow, and learn in a more personalized, intimate context. This is an aspect of a “learning community of practice” that I am mindful of and have been seeking, both for the development of my faith as also in learning how to build a community of practice based on godly principles. From this perspective, I have been grateful for my experiences in the course and for the time extended by the instructors, both one-on-one and in a group context.
The areas in which I feel I have learnt or benefitted the most:
a. Scriptural framework, ethical considerations, and the tools available for developing one’s writing further.
b. Common challenges faced by many writers and how to overcome or mitigate them (for example, organizing data, notes, letters, photos, and the like).
c. Some of the amazing tools and resources available on the web and in print.
d. Where and how to find credible sources.
e. Learning from others at various places in their individual writing journeys—this was a large component and helped a lot.
The areas where I still have some learning to do:
a. Knowing how to go about selecting topics. Perhaps another way to say this is, I am still learning how to develop potential projects from the thread of a single idea, how and what to let go of, and what might best be put on pause. As a creative person, I find I often generate multiple ideas, but it takes me some time and external involvement or additional effort to know how to go about categorizing/prioritizing their importance or in what order to approach these ideas. I am grateful to have become aware of this, so now I can find ways to develop this skill more fully.
b. Knowing where and how to go about successfully finding a spiritual mentor or coach who can help me develop and integrate some of what I’ve been given into a greater framework of service to the community and practice. I have been feeling the need to seek guidance on how to develop a teaching practice, through which I could bring practical education in skills in housing trades to remote communities around the world, as an act of service or as part of a spiritual ministry.
I have gained many understandings and insights as a result of this course. I’ve accomplished the goals of learning, gaining knowledge and resources, and participating in and learning from my own journey and that of others. On a slightly adjacent timeline, I’ve managed to integrate personal resources toward developing a “practice” of writing, using scriptural guidelines to form the foundation of this practice. Some of the things I’ve learned:
a. The scriptural guidelines on the foundational purpose of our writings and how to build our writing practice on this elevated foundation.
b. Being mindful of the purpose of our writings and connecting this to our practice of “faith.”
c. The incredible potential that the telling of stories–both our own and those around us whose stories need to be told–offers in terms of encouragement, edification, faith, hope and the building of Godly communities.
d. My personally derived inspiration in recognizing that those from under-represented groups might need to grow in their faith and skills.
e. How I might best use and integrate my personal experiences into teaching practice offered in the service of God.
f. To stay open-minded and create room for the unknown or for the work of living spirit to help me along on this transformational journey.
Skills I have acquired or improved:
A spiritual mindset that also sees my writing practice (whatever I produce, no matter how small or significant) as an act of worship or service to a greater cause of unity and/or grace
Developed the practice of writing as a way to transform knowledge into learning through application
Improving my ability to set and communicate my expectations for this course and to periodically hold myself accountable to, and check my progress against, this set of criteria.
New feelings or attitudes about this subject:
I used to approach writing with a mindset based on pressure to produce results (academic writing, research papers, etc.) rather than approaching it with a spirit of faith or a positive mindset devoid of any judgment or assumptions. Thus, integrating the spiritual dimension and also seeing it as an opportunity to rely on the spirit rather than one’s own strength has taken away much of the burdensome, heavy, and at times painful feeling and replaced it with a certain lightness, calmness, and positivity that definitely feels like an improvement.
Change in values or beliefs:
I see approaching what we write as a testimony of the practice of one’s faith. I’ve gained an understanding of the principles of moderation, balance, equanimity, and the use of words to build unity, community, and social cohesion around higher ideals. I now see the process of developing one’s inner gifts, as well as the practice of the craft of writing, now almost as an act of worship and something that can serve a greater purpose.
Ways I can apply or use what I have learned in the future:
The biggest takeaway is to apply the scriptural and ethical framework we’ve been exposed to as a raised foundation on which to build a new edifice of community. Perhaps Isaiah said it best (Isaiah 58:12): “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” I see our combined writings as bricks that will hold up this collective structure for all eternity!