A fulsome weekend made up of a church evaluation meeting on Saturday morning, a Holy Trinity Church /Eglwys y Santes Fair lunch on Sunday at the Marine Hotel, Aberystwyth, and an attempt to substantially compose my ‘talk’ (homily/meditation) for the Advent Light service on Friday. And so much else was taking place internally too.
Rarely have I begun a week feeling so tired and divided in myself. Throughout the morning and afternoon I conducted one-to-one tutorials with my Abstraction module contingent. This was with a view to ensuring all were responding to their chosen question in the most appropriate way. I was nailed to my office. In the spaces in between appointments, I attended to long-overdue emails and structured my final week of teaching, which would begin next Monday:
Fine art students rarely have a considerable gift where it comes to essay writing. I certainly didn’t when I began my undergraduate education. Writing demands a set of skills that aren’t included in the artist’s kit bag. I got better once I: (a) began dealing with what I was passionate about; (b) realised that writing was a creative practice. (You could develop a ‘voice’ here too.); and (c) stopped getting hung up with grammar and syntax during the initial drafts. (I’ve the poet Gillian Clarke to thanks in all these respects. She was a caring, sensitive, non-judgemental, and supportive mentor when I was at art school.) Like making art, writing has been an skill acquired over a long period of time. And, I’m still learning. As a teacher, I have to remember just how hard I found the process back then.
2.00 pm: Two consecutive telephone tutorials followed by a series of office visits from eager essayists until the end of the afternoon. 5.20 pm: Homeward:
6.30 pm: Practice session. 7.30 pm: I returned to Friday’s Advent Light service to finalise preparations.
Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:
- Keep kindred ideas together in paragraphs. Otherwise the sentences begin to read like bullet points: provisional, naked, and unconnected.
- Too many too short paragraphs in series feel like choppy waters. Go for the flow instead.
- Ensure that the question is answered. But don’t be afraid to go beyond the bounds of the question in searching and relevant ways.
- By far the hardest aspect of essay writing is discerning and defining the structure.
- Begin by writing what you know. (It may not be the first section of the essay, necessarily.) The rest will be emerge from this.
- Aim to over-write at the outset. This will be the clay from which you will mould the final piece. Some of it will be pared away, other parts will be reshaped, and the remainder, the core of the pot.
- Write to articulate ideas; write to generate ideas; write to interweave ideas.
- Many problems result from starting the essay too late.
The experience of either grief or significant loss is like an intense homesickness – like the melancholy of nostalgia for a place to which you cannot any longer return. There are those we lose to death, and there are those we lose to life. The latter are still in our world, but beyond our reach in every respect. For such, our grief is unresolvable.