Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Monday
Sep302013

BEATING COLLEGE COSTS

If you're a writer, you have a great educational opportunity – an alternative to matriculating at a college or university.  In terms of launching your career, becoming a published writer can be more valuable than a liberal arts degree – and you can do it at a fraction of the cost.

My previous article, "Problems of a Liberal Arts Education" discussed the poor value of traditional liberal arts colleges and grad schools in the United States.  This article proposes a solution, based on the assumption that learning-by-doing is better education than learning-by-learning.  You can use the following program as a replacement for either a collegiate liberal arts education or a graduate degree.

You can do it in six steps.

1.  Find four other aspiring writers.

You may know one or two.  And you may be able to find others by starting a Meet-Up.  Five is a good number because you'll be able to share costs, and together as a small, tight group you can hone each other's writing into smoothness.

The group will work best if all five members are natural writers – that is, you've already been writing for years – from the age of six or seven.  For example, my eight-year old grand-daughter is writing a book about a girl who converses with her cat.  Many great writers start that way.

There are already writers' Meetups all over Seattle.  What makes yours different?  Yours will be an alternative to a college education, and it will cost you -- but only a small percent of university tuition.  And you can be employed, while meeting half a day each week to pursue your career as a writer.

2.  Become a Grants Writer

You five need professional skills so you can earn an income while you learn and write.  Some fields can be quickly and inexpensively learned and do not require tests or licensing.  For example:

  • ·         Teaching English as a second language
  • ·         Representing people on Workers' Compensation claims (a lawyer's job without passing the bar)
  • ·         Becoming a graphic artist (learn Photoshop)
  • ·         Becoming a grants writer

In the late '60s, I took the one-week course taught by the Grantsmanship Center of Los Angeles.  In my career, that single week of training has been as valuable as my three-year J.D. at Harvard Law School.  I'm a legal profession drop-out who has utilized law only peripherally.

Grants writing and fund raising are not intellectually difficult activities.  I've outlined the subject in three blog articles:

http://leadings.squarespace.com/getting-grants-course-outline/

http://leadings.squarespace.com/getting-grants-proposals/

http://leadings.squarespace.com/fund-raising/2012/5/6/fund-raising.html#comments

Here's how you five can get in the grants-writing game in a month:

First week:  Read all you can on grants writing.  (Much is available on the web.)  Go to your branch library and discover the resources.  Unfortunately, the on-line Grants Directory is only accessible at the Main Downtown Seattle Library and at the Renton Library.  If you get serious about grants writing, you five may want to pitch in and buy your own subscription to the Directory.  On the first Saturday, share what you've learned.

Second week:  Each of you should volunteer to write a funding proposal for a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency.  During the week you'll research possible foundations and write your first draft of the proposal.

You hire a professional development director to conduct your second Saturday class.  The development director for an agency, hospital, college or retirement home is a professional beggar who can teach you many tricks of the trade.

Third week:  During the week, you five e-mail attachments of your proposals to each other and to the pro. The pro returns for the third Saturday class, which is a simulated staff meeting during which you review each other's proposals and recommend changes.

Fourth week:  You further revise your proposal and get approval from your agency.  You send the proposal to the selected foundation.  If the proposal is funded, you can put "Grants Writer" on your resume.

Then you apply for a job.  Ideally, you will work for one or more small agencies on a part-time contract basis.  That should get you a paycheck and regular writing work.  The more proposals you write and submit, the more skilled you become.  In time, you'll be on a first-name basis with many foundation people.

Grant writing is formula writing.  It can, however, improve your creative writing style.  You'll learn that eliminating an unnecessary word is a win.  You'll learn to avoid adverbs by selecting a verb that carries the adverbial meaning.  You'll learn to break up long sentences and keep paragraphs short. 

You'll learn truths that professional writers know.  E.g. Teddy Roosevelt:  "If you're tempted to use a Latin-root word, insert the Anglo-Saxon word instead.  It adds punch to your writing."  Ernest Hemmingway:  "The first draft is crap."  (Except he didn't say crap.)  And many others.

3.  Employ a Writer/Mentor

To become a skillful, published, creative writers, you five will need a coach, a mentor, an agent.  So, contact published writers in the area and hire one to meet with you once a week, for example, 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday morning.

You five will pay your mentor.  If you five each bring $40 to each session, that's $200 to the mentor.  The $200 pays for his or her (1) reading and reacting to the papers you e-mail to the mentor on Thursdays, and (2) for conducting the Saturday seminar.  So, it works out to less than $50 an hour for the coach, but that's good wages for a fellow writer.  The $800 a month could be a significant part of his or her income.

A session salary of $200 is low.  If you each prosper as grant writers – or other part-time fields – you may be able to increase the mentor's salary.

A recommendation:  If possible, contract with your mentors for six-months at a time.  As the contract is ending and you're dissatisfied with the mentor, you have the opportunity to end the relationship.  If you like the mentor, you can renew the contract.

If you're blessed, your sessions will be like the Inklings – the group of writers who met at the Eagle and Child pub (the Bird and Baby) in Oxford during the 1930's and 40's.  Best known of the group are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  Readings and discussions of the members' unfinished works was the purpose of that group – and yours.

In the program described here, you pay $2,000 a year for advanced education, in contrast with college tuitions that may run $40,000 a year or graduate education at $60,000 a year.  Many graduates end up with huge debts.  In contrast, you'll pay for your education along the way.  Or, you parents may be delighted to send you a few thousand a year, rather than forking up an exorbitant college tuition.

If the collegiate and PhD students are in the liberal arts, they end up with a degree – and often no job or a gig as a barista.  In contrast, you have published one, two or more books and are an experienced grants writer.  In today's tough job market, you're employable.  Or, if you want to attend grad school, you have a demonstrable accomplishments; the B.A.'s just have grades.

4.  Produce Every Week; Learn Every Week

Writers write, and that's how you learn to write.  With the Saturday seminar, you're responsible for turning out finished, creative writing every week.  You'll be doing grants writing part of the time; creative writing another part – and the two writing styles use different sides of your brain.  It will be easiest if you do two days of one writing style and two or three days of the other. 

Avoid switching from one to the other on the same day – unless you get a blazing inspiration that you have to get on paper.  For example, J. K. Rawlings conceived of Harry Potter while stuck on a train that was running late.

And don't try to use Jeremiah's excuse – "I don't know how to speak.  I'm only a kid."  You have to discover your own voice and use it.  Don't imitate.  You're unique.  Express yourself.  Creative writing is easy.  You just sit down at the computer and open a vein.

5.  Fertilize Your Writing Style with Great Books – and Others

St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, uses The Great Books curriculum – some of which have been historically significant but are crashing bores today – e.g. the writings of Galileo.  But you five should get the Great Books list and choose some of the greats for your reading – e.g. Shakespeare, Don Quixote, Moliere, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace.

However, no one in the teens or early '20s is going to write another War and Peace.  It may be more fruitful to use lighter literature.  Every few years, someone publishes a semi-autobiographical book which catches the public fancy.  Tom Sawyer is our leading example.  Not only do some become best-sellers, but many are made into movies. 

And, there are books of fantasy.  J. K. Rawlings comes to mind.

Note that best sellers are usually unrespectable in academic circles and probably won't qualify you for entrance to grad school.  But, if you can write another Harry Potter, you couldn't care less.  If your application is rejected, you can buy the school.

6.  Publish

Once you've written your first book, you're only halfway home.  You still need to be published.  The traditional method -- working through an agent to find a publisher -- now only works for celebrities or established writers.

Today, nearly all first-time writers self-publish their books.  You'll see ads on the internet that will get you started for $3,000 to $10,000.

There's a better way.  I was directed to Winn Griffin of Woodinville, WA.  Winn's firm, Harmon Press, publishes Christian books.  You send Winn an $800 fee along with your edited, copyread manuscript.  He takes care of the cover, fifty copies to you, printing on demand, the ISBN number and bar code, as well as distribution through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Working with Winn also has the advantage of his being only 15 miles away.

I mention Winn only as an example.  You may find another, local, small publisher who meets your needs.

And part of your mentor's job will be to guide each of you five in the publishing process.  If he or she can be the agent for you five, you are privileged.

                        WARNING

            Don't try this writing alternative to college unless you really are a writer.

            It's not enough to say "I wanna be a writer."

            You have to be confident that you've already found your voice and can do good work.

            All you need is focus, time, a coach and feedback.

Also, this publishing alternative doesn't apply if you want to pursue a career in engineering, medicine, dentistry, law, architecture or other fields with specialized academic and licensing requirements.  However, being a published writer could be preparation for law school.  It would strain any law school's application process, but if you can show that you have indeed achieved college equivalency and more, some school should have the courage to admit you.

Note that it's rare for a person finds his or her voice as a writer in the late teens or early 20's.  You have to know yourself well, have something unique to say, and have confidence that you can do it.  It can be done, and a future article will deal with that topic.

In contrast, I didn't discover my voice til I was in my 70's.  It began when my son-in-law remarked, "Jack, you have a lot to say.  Why don't you start a blog?"  So I did and discovered I was writing several books.

As organizer of the group, you should have a special privilege.  You should be able to write the book about the group itself.

As you proceed, document your learning.  You should end with a transcript at least a dozen pages long. Include profiles of your mentors, a list of your wrtings, a bibliography of books read and a commentary on what you've learned.  Also include your work experience and what you learned at work.  You may take some university courses along the way.  If so, include your transcript with grades.

A perceptive graduate school admissions officer will realize that you have received an Oxford University education -- but you've done it on the cheap.

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A further thought:  Perhpas in the near future, we'll have university equivalency exams.  That way a Southie like Will Hunting could get a B.S. from MIT.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Jack Towe

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