Over the past couple of months I have been studying for a post graduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education. Unit one of the course concludes tomorrow when I will hand in my 3000 word essay. When I started to write this essay I simply picked the areas of teaching and learning that I found most interesting and started to list the basic topics that I could cover. I then began filling out these topics with my thoughts. A couple of weeks later I was gazing at about 20,000 words, wondering how on earth to cut it down to 3000.Now I’m not saying I had 20,000 words of clear, succinct essay! No; it was a jumble of thoughts, ideas, references and phrases that I had jotted down as and when they occurred to me.
To cut a long story short, I spent several more weeks trying to edit down, without success. Though I shut down several areas of interest, I was still generating thousands of words on the topics I was going for, as I explored them at the kind of depth that is required of masters level work. In the end, after a lot of stress, I realised I was never going to be able to produce a satisfactory essay on these topics within the permitted word count. They were just too big.
So last week I, figuratively, threw the whole lot away, and started again on a completely new topic. (That new topic may be the subject of a number of future blog posts!)
In looking back at the tens of thousands of words I had generated I recognised that despite practically none of it ending up in my assessed essay, it was still a very useful activity for me. I learnt a lot from it.
It helped me clarify my thoughts. The process of writing encouraged me to make sense of my thinking, to clarify what I think about things and to figure out why.
So I have decided to keep a journal.
Yes but why a blog?
I think blogging some of my journal writing adds a new dimension. The possibility of other people reading adds just a little bit of pressure to put more effort into the writing. Having an audience (or even just a potential audience, as I don’t know if anyone will read this stuff) makes me focus my writing and be more careful about it. I have to structure it, to have it make sense to someone who has no idea about the array of interconnecting ideas in my head, that would make an entirely private journal make sense to me.
Publishing some of my journalistic musings in a blog may have other advantages. My friends can read it and it could spark conversations when I see them. My students and colleagues at Central can read it to get to know me a bit more, which is cool. Complete strangers might read it and become become new connections. Perhaps most interestingly, anyone can comment on it, and challenge my thinking. It might result in changing my mind about something; or not. Either way, it’s good for me to consider, reconsider and confirm to myself what I think about what, and why.
It is a bit scary. It is putting a small bit of myself ‘out there’, and anyone could come along and attack my opinion, tell me I’m wrong about something, think less of me because I’ve said something they think is stupid, and on and on.
But equally, it could result in connecting with like minded folk, with nice people who contribute to my knowledge, who build upon and support my ideas, and so on.
With the new term at CSSD starting tomorrow, it remains to be seen if I actually find time to write anything…