College and Blogging

This is the third in a series of posts to answer the questions that Amanda Socci asked me at Write Nonfiction in November.  If you are a nonfiction writer, make sure you check out her nonfiction writing challenge taking place in November.

Amanda asked me how my college education prepared me for writing this blog.

The first and most obvious way was the course of study.
 The college I attended was Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.  The school is unusual because the majority of classes are Bible or Bible-related.  There are a few English, science, and psychology classes.  There are also many music and ministry classes, but no matter what you are studying, most students have at least one Bible class every semester, and oftentimes, they have several.

I certainly won't claim to know everything about the Bible, but I did walk across the stage to accept my degree knowing a whole lot more than I did five years earlier.

One area that I learned a lot about was Biblical history.  I remember my very first semester, I accidentally ended up in a junior/senior level class on the book of Isaiah.  I always liked the book of Isaiah, but suddenly the book came together as a clear picture, a part of the story of Israel.  I think that class is one of the main reasons I love the Old Testament so much today, and I am very glad I ended up in that class so early in my college career.

I also learned how to interpret the Bible.  I realized that pulling a single verse from the Bible is generally not an effective way to study.  Every verse in the Bible should be studied within the context of the verses around it.

Besides the invaluable Bible knowledge I received, I was given a chance to greatly improve my writing skills.  A paper at Ozark was generally expected to be around eight to ten page long, as opposed to the five or six pages the school across town was rumored to accept.  Working on papers helped my research skills, but I was also reminded to think for myself.  My very first paper was on baptism.  Between the school library, the internet, and a friend who had a passion for the topic, I amassed a large amount of resources.  I worked hard on the paper, and I felt pleased but anxious when I turned it in.

When I received it back, I was glad to see I got a nice grade, but as I looked through the professor's notes, I saw that on one page he left a very important message.  He pointed out to me that the entire page consisted of others' thoughts on the topic.  But what did I think? That note made me realize that I wasn't regurgitating information for a research paper anymore.  My thoughts mattered.  That changed the way I wrote every paper from that point on.

I also found a lot of encouragement as a writer during college.  One semester, I took a writing class similar to Composition 101 & 102.  At the end of one of my essays, the wonderful professor left a short note:  "Be a writer!"

Another time, I had the chance to have lunch with several classmates, another professor, and the professor's mother who was visiting campus.  While we were eating, she asked me why I was so quiet.  I don't remember my response, but I do remember the professor's response.  He said, "Kirra may be quiet, but just wait until you get a pen in her hand!"

On another occasion, I mentioned to a professor that I was using my work from a class project to teach my fourth grade Sunday School class because I hadn't found a published curriculum that I liked.  He told me that one day I would probably be writing the published curriculum.

I've always loved writing, but these instances helped give me the confidence to step out and write this blog as well as pursue publication in other places.

A third way I was influenced in college is that I was surrounded by writers.  Many of my professors were accomplished writers, and several of the books on my shelves have their names on the covers.  Also I currently read two blogs that are written by professors from the college:  Perspectives on Hermeneutics and Adorate.  Coming to the school, I already carried a passion for writing, and being around these writers helped stoke the fire.

For those reasons and many others, I will always be thankful for the time I spent and the education I received at OCC.

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