Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A New Season for Thinking and Writing

Written by: on September 2, 2021

Our readings for this week have challenged and stretched my understanding of how to read, think, take notes, and write. Being high on the intuitive scale, it is often hard for me to write until I have a sense of inspiration or spark. Outlining my thoughts has always felt cumbersome and lackluster.

Several insights from our texts connected for me. From Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes, I found the workflow concept helpful because it is organic. Ideas multiply and grow; connections are synergistic. The concept that writing is externalized thinking reframes note taking for me. No longer will I be just writing down a quote or fact. Rather, my aim will be to engage it and connect it with my project or something else significant in my life.

I used Obsidian last year for my note taking. I especially like the back links and graph view. The visual of how my notes are related to one another inspires me. The clusters help me recognize places of energy in my reading and thinking. The outliers helped me to recognize areas I either need to further explore or set aside for now. I need to further refine my practice of one note to one entry. I had too much to wade through in each entry.

I have always enjoyed talking with an author by writing in my book margins and using different symbols to note key thoughts or passages. Adler’s suggestion (How to Read a Book) to include cross-references in the margins is a helpful addition to my current practices. One challenge I am facing is how to translate this kind of conversation with the author to digital material. I haven’t found a satisfying path forward yet and will keep experimenting. I would value hearing what others find helpful.

The questions Adler encourages a reader to ask of the text and author through the four levels of reading will push me to analytically and holistically engage the text. The structure provided by the levels will help me to read in a more systematic and productive manner. It is going to take practice. I especially appreciate how the levels of reading will push me to engage the text and critically develop my own thinking and reasoning. I’m looking forward to discovering more of my own voice on this journey.

Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist was too irresistible for only an inspectional reading. His ten encouragements for unleashing creativity were winsome and motivating. The encouragement to embrace influence (and influencers) resonated. I especially valued his suggestion to steep in the work of a favorite influencer. Then, add three of that person’s influencers to savor next and so on. His manifesto was also inspiring: “…do the work you want to see done (p. 43).”

Paul and Elder’s The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking helped me realize how much more I have to learn about critical thinking. I appreciated their inclusion of cross-cultural influences on how one thinks, the barriers to critical thinking they articulated, the coaching questions they posed for stretching more deeply into critical thinking, and the vision they painted of how society would be strengthened if critical thinking were more widely practiced. I am looking forward to stretching into this new season of thinking and writing.

About the Author

Elmarie Parker

10 responses to “A New Season for Thinking and Writing”

  1. Elmarie, I’m encouraged and challenged by the humility in your reflection. You chose one or two takeaways from each text and seem to be integrating them already. I struggle as well to convert written notes/materials into digital format, and I haven’t found a smooth way other than fancy digital books and software that allows for writing. I would suggest that manually transferring your margin notes to an annotated bib results in an alchemical process that more deeply integrates your thoughts around the work.

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Thank you, Michael, for this suggestion. I do better with physical books and transferring my margin notes in a similar fashion to what you’ve suggested. I have been moving them into Obsidian and importing bibliography information from Zotero. My larger challenge is with digital books–how to take margin notes in an effective manner. I’m going to try Andy’s suggestion in a modified way and see how that goes.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Elmarie, thanks for distilling your main take-aways from the readings. You are further down the road of adding tools for learning than me. You are my hero for already using Obsidian! I’ve played with it in comparison to your description. I’m still hoping to make it to Lebanon, and if I do I would like to hear more about your ministry there. I hear of economic struggles causing difficulty for many. I trust you and yours are well.

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Thank you, Roy, for your comments. Keep on keeping on with Obsidian…I think it is a tool well worth using. I think I’m going to take Andy’s suggestion, but use Obsidian rather than Word for implementing.

      The situation in Lebanon is beyond words awful. There was a NYTs article yesterday that does justice to the despair people are feeling–https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/03/opinion/lebanon-economy.html?smid=em-share. Every day seems to bring new layers of agony for those living in Lebanon. The situation is a true testament to the perils of failed governance.

  3. mm Andy Hale says:

    I wish I could write in the margins. However, my handwriting is so atrocious that I can’t ever read it afterward.

    One trick that works for me is to type the quote or idea that sticks out to me in a word doc, going ahead and doing a full footnote citation, as well as writing my initial thoughts about the quote or idea.

    I love the idea of finding your voice. Sometimes, academic writing can feel like just a regurgitation of what we’ve read.

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Thank you, Andy, for sharing that tip. I’ll add that to my ‘bag of tricks.’ I think I’ll try using your suggestion with Obsidian rather than Word and see how it can help me hone my skills with that tool.

  4. I love this discussion as a whole. I felt more empowered last year than every in my academic writing pursuits. Obsidian works well and I think it’ll be a good tool for keeping track of notes this semester. I want to take notes in such a way that the synoptical essay writes itself.

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    O Elmarie, we are soul sisters when it comes to putting our thoughts to paper. I am in awe of your reading skills that are able to snag the salient points of the reading and apply them to your writing process. I look forward to learning and being challenged by our conversations as our journey continues. Thank you for sharing your struggles and goals for in them we can find ourselves and know we are not alone.

  6. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Elmaire, I’m impressed by your through review of the various texts. I also found Kleon to be inspiring on so many fronts that it will require much more reflection. I’m looking forward to picking your brain on applying Obsidian.

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