Students in each of my writing classes keep a blog for the semester, and my practice beginning this semester is to join them. (I’ve used a blog in the past to communicate with students but only last year began asking students to do the same.)
Before, I never modeled what I want students to do: compose something, not just anything, but something meaningful once a week, either an original composition or a link to something with brief (or not) personal commentary about the connection.
I’m so pleased with their work, and I hope that they are, too. They deserve to be.
We talk about how writing material percolates, composts, simmers, slow-roasts (insert your preferred verb) — often for long periods of time before the writer is ready to begin shaping the idea(s). They use their daybooks (a less double-X-chromosome-threatening term for “journal”) to get ideas down quickly, and then come back, add more, and so forward. (For my students: I’ve forgotten to share that I use the “drafts” feature in WordPress to build upon ideas that are percolating. Right now, I have 7 drafts in various stages of necessary, messy incoherence.)
Each week, I get an understandable question: “What do I blog about?”
I cannot tell writers what to compose; that would deny them the essential, uncomfortable, and liberating period of uncertainty we pass through. The best I can do, now, is model a post that is not “original:”
My friend — author and liberal pastor-theologian Steve Shoemaker — adapted a benediction from William Sloane Coffin, the late author and liberal pastor-theologian. Steve asked Coffin for permission to make some changes, and last week, I asked Steve for his permission to make a (small) change.
Both men’s benedictions build upon the “Priestly Blessing,” a verse found in the Old Testament, specifically in Numbers. (I’m fairly sure neither Dr. Coffin nor Dr. Shoemaker asked permission of the original scribe(s) — maybe Moses? — but I haven’t asked.) You’ll know some of the language, perhaps: the Priestly Blessing infuses the first stanza, and is recited in many faith traditions (Judaic, Christian and more), plus it’s been popularized in films, books, television shows and onward.
I offer this because, well…because I like it:
May the Great Spirit bless you
and keep you.
May the Great Spirit’s face
shine upon you and
be gracious unto you.
May the Great Spirit give you the grace
never to sell yourself short;
grace to risk something big
for something good;
grace to remember that the
world is too dangerous
for anything but truth and
too small for anything but love.
So, may the Great Spirit take your minds
and think through them;
may the Great Spirit take your lips
and speak through them;
may the Great Spirit take your hearts
and set them on fire.
William Sloane Coffin
Adapted by H. Stephen Shoemaker
Adapted, ever so minutely, by Malcolm Campbell