Poiema

Institute for faith, culture, and creativity

The Truth About Poiema

In the age of the internet and social media, writers can be like bad cliches—a dime-a-dozen—and redundant too.

Online writing courses are nearly as ubiquitous.

So why pour another glass of water into a swollen ocean?

Hi. My name is Scott Postma, and I am the founder of Poiema, an institute for faith, culture, and creativity. I’d like to answer that question by introducing myself and sharing a short story.

I am not a best-selling author. I am not a famous TV personality. And I may never be a literary rock star.

I am, however, a regular guy who has studied and taught the craft of writing, and spent more than twenty years in a vocation where words were the medium for making my little corner of the ocean a better place to swim.

Two Significant Events

During the twenty-plus years I served in the pastorate, two seemingly unrelated but significant events took place. Though it’s difficult to see how one had anything to do with the other, it turns out Poiema is actually the child of their marriage.

The first event happened in the background, as it were. It was a development in technology called the internet. Depending on how you look at the internet, there has been an interlinking data storage platform since the 1950s. But the platform most of us use today made its initial appearance in the late 80s and eventually became a conduit for public commerce and communication in the 90s.

The second event was entirely personal, an epiphany involving an old flame. Some might characterize it as a mid-life crisis, but I can assure you there wasn’t a sports car or younger woman involved.

Like Dante did Beatrice, I first fell in love with writing when I was a child. Under myriad nom de plumes like Silverstein, Tolkien, and Franklin W. Dixon, she enticed me and kindled the flame of my passion with her poetry and stories.

I don’t actually recall our first encounter, but sometimes, when I pick up a new book, I catch her inky scent and I’m immediately transported back to a summer day at the end of a gravel road in the Southwest. I couldn’t have been much more than five or six, but there in the back of the Bookmobile, I noticed her reflection and felt the tingle of butterflies invade my stomach for the very first time.

In reality, the Bookmobile was a small bus converted into a mobile library that serviced rural families.

But as far as I remember it, the Bookmobile was a white chariot that ferried this golden-tongued siren of many names hither and yon to seduce unwitting fools, like me, to believe that if they loved her, and would simply embrace her, they too could some day answer to her name—writer.

The Pursuit of Writing

I fell in love with her that day, and determined I would do what it took to embrace her. I greedily consumed her words and tried to imitate her styles, but I soon discovered she was much more elusive than I had ever imagined.

I repeatedly tried my hand at her craft, but I could never get my arms around her. Sometimes the product of my effort was funny, sometimes it was dark and scary, and sometimes it was mystic and transcendent. But all of the time it was clumsy and awkward.

In high school I decided to take journalism and even tried writing for the school paper for a while, yet she still eluded me. And she did so long enough that I eventually let the idea of embracing her go from my heart. I graduated high school, joined the military, and tried to move on with my life.

After my military stint, I spent the next twenty years in pastoral ministry where I planted two churches and started two schools.

During these years, I would often haunt old book stores hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of my childhood flame, but all I ever found were centuries of her fingerprints left on the pages of musty old books. Her memory always delighted me, but I never brought myself to believe I would be one of the lucky few to embrace her.

The Epiphany

It happened at an unexpected moment. Flipping through a writing magazine, it dawned on me that for the past twenty years I had been writing nearly every day.

I wrote several sermons a week. I wrote web copy, print copy, and monthly newsletters. I wrote and published curriculum for our ministry. Simultaneously, I had been teaching high school students how to write essays, speeches, poetry, and short stories.

The epiphany centered on how wrong-headed I had been about the elusive craft. It was she who did the embracing, not the other way around. We writers don’t choose writing; writing chooses us. That day I knew I was a writer. And I knew I had to do something about it.

In order to master the craft, I returned to college in 2009 and earned a degree in creative writing. Following that I earned a master’s degree in classical and Christian literature. (Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in humane letters while working on the Poiema Manifesto, a book for creative professionals or anyone looking to discover their significance, create meaningful art, and make a difference that actually matters.)

Writing, I’ve learned, is a life-long pursuit. It’s not a destination, like some hotel room where you finally arrive late at night exhausted from driving all day. Writing is a journey, but one you’ll enjoy better with friends headed the same way who love to jam to the same tunes.

The Truth About Poiema

The truth about Poiema is that it was birthed out of a burden for people like me, writers and creative professionals who realize they have a calling and want to succeed at developing their craft.

Like me, many writers have been practicing the craft in various contexts for most of their life. But they have been blinded by the idea of being a writer, so they haven’t acknowledged their calling or done anything to invest in their success. This needn’t be the case. Writers simply need to embrace their calling and invest in their craft.

One option is to return to college like I did. But that is an expensive option that puts a lot of unnecessary burden on a writer and his or her family. Believe me; I know it first hand.

Because of the power of the internet, writers don’t have to relocate or spend a lot of money to hire a quality mentor. And with the advancements in software and technology, online courses done right actually provide a better experience and are less expensive than a brick and mortar classroom in most cases.

There are a lot of really good online courses on the internet. I’ve taken a couple myself. But there are a lot of hack courses out there as well.

That’s why I hope you’ll consider taking our premier writing course this Fall.

The Poiema Distinction

Poiema is distinct from other writing courses in that we cultivate the artist as much as the art itself. We take our name from the Greek word from which the English language derives its word poetry. It is the same word St. Paul used in his letter to the Ephesians when he told them that our lives are actually living works of art (Ephesians 2:10).

Poiema is distinct from other writing courses in that we help writers of all genres explore the central issues at the root of the human experience—faith, culture, and creativity.

Poiema is distinct from other writing courses in that it affirms human creativity as being under the lordship of Christ and that art itself can be a doxology. That doesn’t mean we are teaching people to write “Christian” literature. Such is a ludicrous marketing tactic that does not exist in art any more than Christian trees, Christian landscapes, or Christian buildings. In part, it means we affirm that human beings have been created to be creators.

At Poiema we don’t only teach the craft of writing; we teach writers how to enrich the well from which they draw their inspiration.

Sign up here if you’d like to learn more about Poiema.

Also, we’re looking for writers interested in providing valuable feedback on our premier course, Writing with Wisdom and Eloquence, in exchange for a significant discount on the course.

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. While pursuing a PhD in Humane Letters, he shares valuable tips on writing and teaching, rich insights into theology and literature, and meaningful perspective on living a life of significance. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.