Many readers know I teach communication at a Christian university. Our majors all met today for the first time this year, and each faculty member was asked to give them some advice. Here’s mine:
My advice today is simple. Read more. And write more. Maybe even draw more.
Yes, I know you are busy. But I have to wonder if you are busy with the right things. Or even if you are reading the right things. Facebook updates are not the key to your future or your success.
So first, read more. I’m talking about actual books, now. Even magazines or newspapers. It’s OK if they are digital, as long as being on the computer does not distract you from the business of reading them.
What I’m suggesting, though, is more long form reading in a world of Twitter. Essays, articles, chapters. Find intelligent people who can sustain and support a point of view. Learn from these people.
You can always start by reading your textbooks. But textbooks are often only a poor distillation of other people’s ideas. So if it’s helpful to read Griffin’s summary of genderlect theory in COM 200, it’s more helpful to read a book by Deborah Tannen. If her theory interests you, make the time to read her books.
Ask your professors what they are reading. Check out the best selling books on business and communication so you can have an intelligent conversation with your boss some day. And read the classics. Aristotle has been translated into English, you know.
And certainly read your Bible, not just books about it. You have not understood what it means to be a Christian because you read some breezy critique or inspirational self-help book. God still speaks to us through His Word. It is the Word itself which calls our spirits into the presence of God.
Even in this respect, there are older, more thoughtful things to read than the self-accommodating, trendy drivel that often passes as Christian literature today. Read Augustine, Wesley, Calvin, Lewis, Chesterton, Tozer. You have much to learn and the time is short.
Again, I know you are busy. But be busy with important things. I expect you have more discretionary time now than you will ever have. If you get through college and have not read anything that was not required of you, you have squandered your youth.
Add a real job, a spouse and kids, PTO and a church volleyball team to the equation and you will feel the regret of not having grounded yourself in a thoughtful, reflective understanding of the Word God spoke and the world he made. The same is true if you end up digging wells in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the time to prepare. This is your job right now.
You won’t take your next job seriously if you don’t take this job seriously. Yet more reading is only part of what you must do. You must reflect on what you are learning which means you also need to write more than you do. Writing helps us remember, but it does more than that. It helps us understand.
Dr. Patton carries a journal with him everywhere he goes. I write two or three essays a week for my blog. Several of us have turned our best thinking into books. Writing forces you to draw conclusions and ask questions. This is healthy and this is good.
So get a journal or sketchbook and jot down the things you read or hear that make you pause and wonder. Frankly, most of you don’t even take notes in class. Shame on you. You spend $80,000 on a college education, most of it borrowed against an uncertain future, and all you have to show for it is your Facebook status?
Find more serious friends, read more serious stuff, and write more serious comments. Collect better ideas and practice putting them down on paper, or sketching them out on story boards.
These habits will change your conversations, your country, your culture, your church and your children. They will certainly change you.
So read more. Write more. Be good stewards of your many gifts.