In class today we discussed the Berry story briefly before turning toward the processes and habits required to do good written work. We then concluded by talking about the Sertillanges reading for next week.

Assignment for this week: Read Writer’s Inc, p. 1-21, Powerful Paragraphs p. 17-21, Sertillanges “Don’t Read Too Much.” 500 word response to one of the following prompts:

  • What is the danger of reading too much according to Sertilanges?
  • For Sertillanges, the great thing is that we read well more than that we read much. Talk about one memory you have of reading that is particularly vivid and explain why you think that experience has been so memorable.
  • What does it mean to read “intelligently” rather than “passionately”?

Here are some bullet points to summarize the class discussion:

  • I said that the reason I wanted to introduce you all to Berry and to “The Lost Bet” in particular is because of how Berry doesn’t simply relay facts, but creates characters with his writing. This makes the facts he does relay–Tol jumped in a basket of eggs–mean more and hit us a bit harder than if he just relayed a series of facts to us.
  • We talked about the process of writing in two different ways.
    • First, referencing Writer’s Inc, we looked briefly at the process for writing and editing a paper laid out from pages 1-21. This covered pre-writing, drafting, revising, and so on. We said that you should have a defined process for writing, but I also am not going to require all of you to use the same process. I want you to find a process that works for you. That said, if you don’t know what that process is, do feel free to use the Writer’s Inc process as a starting point.
    • Second, we talked about the kind of mental and physical habits involved in writing well. We talked about the need to create a good physical space to work in, the danger of making yourself too busy with work (such that your mind is so scattered you are unable to think clearly), and the value of plodding through work, getting a little done at a time over a long enough time that you actually end up finishing a large amount of work. NOTE: For plodding to work as a strategy, you need to plan well. You can absolutely plod through your first paper for the class, but not if you start working on it on October 12 when it’s due on October 17.
  • Finally, let’s talk briefly about the reading for next week: It’s going to challenge you. Sertillanges was an academic and his writing can be hard to follow. So if you struggle, that’s OK. I’ll be surprised if you don’t. I’ve assigned this for two reasons: a) I want to stretch you a bit and I want you to see that you actually can read harder things than you probably think you can. b) I think the idea of reading less is really valuable because it helps us learn to prioritize our work, to think of the amount of work we can expect to get done, and to make wise decisions about how we work. That being said, I will send out an email Thursday morning to check in with everyone. If you are having trouble, we can talk more then.

First Paper

Finally, here is the update on the first paper: I want you to write a portrait for me of a grandparent, aunt, or uncle modeled after the way that Tolkien describes Bilbo and that Berry describes Tol and Sam. If you do not have any family members you can speak to for the project, email me (jakemeador at gmail dot com) as soon as you can and we will work something else out.

NOTE: “Portrait” can mean a few different things. You could choose to just tell a single story about the person and, in the telling of the story, paint a broader picture of who that person is. Don’t over-think this. It can be something reasonably simple: Ask about how the story of how they met their husband or wife or ask them about a favorite story they have of your mom or dad from growing up with them. You can sometimes learn a lot about a person from how they act in a given moment. I’ll bring in an example next week that we can discuss in class.