There are basically two things I do in my job – write and teach.
Contrary to my expectations coming into my role, I really enjoy teaching. I love sharing what I’ve learned about productivity and wellbeing with other people: staff and students. I’ve been lucky over the last 6 months to get many more opportunities to speak to students.
To enjoy teaching however, I think one has to have something interesting to teach. In order for that to happen I have to be constantly learning and developing my own understanding of productivity and wellbeing.
Writing is central to that.
In fact, when it comes to developing one’s own understanding of complex topics, I think you only really have 4 options: reading, being taught (by an expert), having conversations with people, and writing.
To me, writing is where I find out whether or not I have a good understanding of a topic. If I can write clearly and succinctly about a topic, then it means that I have at least formulated my own thoughts about that topic in a coherent way. It doesn’t necessarily mean I am ‘right’ (I could be misunderstanding something critical) but it means I’ve advanced beyond the confusion that tends to characterise the early stages of learning new information.
I wouldn’t say that I find writing easy, but I find it rewarding.
And today, I get to allocate the whole day to writing!
Now some of you probably share my love of writing. Perhaps you are in a degree where writing is central to the skillset you are developing. Perhaps you’ve found, like I have, that writing is a powerful and personal way to interact with the world. If this is you, you are possibly aware of the sense of satisfaction that comes from knowing you have the freedom to spend a nice big chunk of time writing (there is also trepidation, driven by a fear of ‘what if I don’t have anything to say’). I don’t have to convince you of the value of writing.
But I am also mindful of the fact that for some students, writing is probably the bane of their university experience. They came here to learn skills, techniques, ways of working, knowledge and the requirement of expressing those in writing is annoying.
If that is you, I invite you to at least re-consider what value writing might have for you in pursuing these skills, techniques and knowledge. One thing that really helped me in developing a love of writing was re-thinking the audience I am speaking to. When I was in a research job, I was essentially writing papers for other researchers. I was not particularly vibed by that. But when I came here to Flinders, I was able to consider a different audience, which I call, for want of a better phrase the ‘general public’. Once I realised that I wanted to share what I was learning with everyone and anyone, I got excited about writing again. Blogging for me is much preferred to academic writing.
Now I realise that it may be compulsory for you to do some academic writing as part of your degree. And in the long-term, it will make you a better writer and thinker. But also consider whether you might find writing for a different audience interesting as well. Maybe start a blog. Use your Facebook page to write short pieces about what you are learning. Participate in discussion forums. Get a pen pal. Whilst there will be rules for the writing you do here at Uni, you can also venture out into writing for different purposes, where there are less rules and more freedom. Having both professional and recreational writing pursuits will mutually strengthen each other. Uni writing will make your recreational writing better and vice versa.
So, if you’ve just started here at Uni this week, firstly welcome and secondly, consider starting a journal of your uni experience.
If you are returning back to Uni, firstly welcome back and secondly, ask yourself what your attitude to writing is, and whether or not introducing some new writing opportunities into your life might enhance your learning experience.
Me? I am off to write down as many words as I can today, of all sorts and varieties. Tally ho chaps!!