What makes a hard task easier? What makes it easier to meet a deadline? What makes something daunting seem a little less scary?
Sometimes it helps to put yourself in a place where it’s easier to achieve your goal. Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone.
This week Joe and I are attending a writing retreat for the the students here at UKZN in the Religion, Gender, and Health program. Masters degree candidates have a thesis due in December. Honors students (like a 4th/senior year of university in the United States) have a paper due next week.
To help them complete their papers, the culmination and main requirement of their degrees, the program faculty host an intensive writing retreat for one week. Faculty (and visiting academics) are on hand to offer feedback, support, and company while students spend 9 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday writing. They also have some check-in times when they report out on what they’ve accomplished so far, and on Friday afternoon they are supposed to send their supervisors their work for more feedback. Students receive lunch, dinner, snacks, and bottomless tea and coffee. Sometimes people are chatty. Some times are designated “shut up and write” periods.
The students we’ve met come from South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. They are working on weighty topics, writing papers with working titles such as “A Critical Exegetical Reading of 1 Kings 21:1-16 in the Context of Poverty and Gender Discrimination and Unemployed Women (18-25),” “The Biblical and Theological Response of Rural Anglican Churches to Environmental Challenges Faced by Anglican Rural African Women,” and “A Feminist Critique of Ecumenical Bodies’ Silence to the Sexual Abuse of Women with Mental Disabilities in Zambia.”
The retreat is sponsored by a grant from the Swedish Lutheran Church and the faculty have found it an effective way over the years to help students meet their goals.
This experience makes me grateful for the people who have encouraged me to be where I need to be (to write, usually sitting in front of a computer) and have been great company, giving me encouragement, and holding me accountable.
Where do you need to be? Who can be good company for you?