Personal writing goal in the event of the emergence of a critique group

Updated from December 23 2010

Genre: Creative nonfiction; personal essays, sometimes with a “textual center,” as with St John’s essays

Monthly goal: One edited and revised essay of medium length (8-10 pages)

Duration: January 2011 — whenever

Suggested text for discussion: One Year to a Writing Life

Statement of intent: I’m something of a sloppy writer. I put words on a page, and howsoever they fall there they remain. Because of that I don’t often develop an idea into a “real essay.” Most often it takes either a grade or something of momentous personal importance to drag a formal essay out of me. I would like to improve at this.

I would like to improve because of all the times people I know have gone off, done something, learned something, found it personally important and meaningful, and then been altogether unable to articulate that importance, and I wished I could have seen or heard their feelings on the matter with some precision and art. For the times I’ve had a very different experience of an experience than those with whom I spoke, but didn’t even pretend to try to explain what things looked like from my perspective. Because the ability to write well is a useful and interesting one. Because sometimes people have read what I’ve written and encouraged me by saying that they found it to be well said and interesting.

Some essays I ought to write:

  1. Studying the liberal arts at St John’s College
  2. Pilgramaging in Syria
  3. Research essay on matter, grace, and the divinization of creation
  4. Myrring icons
  5. The experience of various prayer and worship situations


I’ve been working at this for a few weeks now, and have begun to realize a couple of things.

From before last year I have four essays, all of them biographical — religious, literary, educational, and temperamental.

Then I spent most of last year trying to articulate the philosophies and perspectives of the great thinkers of the Western intellectual tradition — my essays from last year were on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Unamuno, Aristotle, Kant, DeTocquiville, Tolstoy, Euclid, Lobachievsky, Kline, and Descartes. I wrote all of these essays for my MA degree, as a way of examining what these greatly influential writers thought like, and what kinds of reasoning they used (or didn’t, in the case of U).

Since then I’ve just been writing on, as the sidebar says, “whatever happens to come to mind.” That’s alright, but lacks structure — it’s kind of mushy, so it’s hard for me to know where I’m going with what I’m writing, or what I’m trying to say.

I liked that format — to read something and then write on what I saw in it, what I got out of it — how it could be meaningful and informative. What is this person saying, or showing, and how might that be important to someone? So I want to do some more of that this year (sorry, I’m going to be late on the first one!). I want to add something, however — I don’t only read books, but just as often I attend services, and I would like to spend some time expanding upon those: why they’re important, what I understand by them, and so on.


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