“Complete instructions on how to live, how to govern, even how to die – everything is around
us in nature, in the tides, in the storm, in the way the sea grass, moved back and forth by the wind, etches a curve in the sand.” – John A. Murray
Welcome to The Nature of Writing, a class designed to get you reading, thinking and writing about the natural world and your place in it. I don’t know any other writing genre that has more to offer its readers and writers. The range of topics it covers is mind boggling, and its authors are not only superb wordsmiths, but experts in a wide range of other disciplines as well. Best of all, the subject matter is gripping, readily accessible and relevant to all our lives. We all have a stake in how our relationship to the planet unfolds. As Edward O. Wilson put it so nicely:
“Because humanity evolved in nature over millions of years, there is every reason to expect that we possess an innate capacity to draw deep excitement and pleasure from experiencing it. And, because our species has been exquisitely adapted to the razor-thin biosphere covering the planet by this same evolution, our survival depends on understanding and protecting the rest of life.”
We have a lot of ground to cover in this class, but I want it to be exciting and satisfying ground. Therefore, the main thing that I ask as we embark on this adventure together is that you keep your hearts and minds open, be willing to share your thoughts, and decide right away that you will not succumb to SLS.
SLS is a term I came up with. It stands for “Serious Learning Syndrome,” and almost all my students have a terrible case of it. Basically it means that they take learning much too seriously, and as a result have lost the spontaneity and joy that should be part of the whole process. This is particularly debilitating for writers, who need every bit of spontaneity, humor, and creativity they can muster. However, there’s a big difference in between SLS and the work that goes into all learning. Have you ever watched young children play? They are undoubtedly having the time of their short lives. Their cheeks are flushed, their eyes sparkle, and they burble over with laughter, but they are also completely absorbed in their play. In fact, they are working so hard at playing that by the end of the day they collapse into exhausted heaps of satisfaction.
Now I’m not saying that you should be collapsing at the end of this class. However, I’m hoping that you will approach these lessons with the intention of playing while you learn, and the willingness to do the work that’s necessary to become a top notch writer. I would also ask that you keep a sharp lookout for any signs of SLS in your instructor. Having once had the worst case of SLS in recorded history, I have been known to suffer occasional, minor relapses. So, whether you’re here out of idle curiosity, a compelling desire to learn and write about nature, or some other less well-defined reason, welcome.
Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.