May 28, 2012

Knowledge: a mind-expanding drug

by Nikki Logan

Being a writer can be at once mind-expanding and mind-limiting. Our imaginations get to run totally rampant (no idea too crazy!), but our real worlds can easily shrink if we don’t take care. They shrink to about the size of our writing spaces. Or maybe the path between our writing space, the kettle and the bathroom J

In an attempt to force my world back out, I’m undertaking a year-long marathon of ‘Something New Every Day’. I’ve signed up to a range of university lecture-series with GreatCourses and do one every day (and then I blog about some particularly interesting aspect over at my website simply because writing it down helps me lock it into my crowded brain).

I now have a new pile next to my TBR pile. I call it my TBL pile (to-be-learned) and here's a little glimpse:
BIG HISTORY - a fascinating big-picture view from the moment of the ‘big bang’ through 14billion years of the creation of space, suns, planets, earth and the (comparative) 5 minutes of mammals and the 12 seconds of human history. And then onwards to look ahead 1000 years and then to the eventual end of our planet. Just the most AWESOME course. And presented by an Aussie. Yay.
MEDIEVAL ENGLAND - the 1000year history of England spanning from the fifth-century to the fifteenth. A really fascinating time of endless wars and invasions and death and misery, but also the time when our language and legal system and social systems were founded.

GREAT WORLD RELIGIONS - crash courses in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Because I’ve always been interested in what these essential faiths have in common at their core and (particularly in light of BIG HISTORY) how they might have evolved from some common faith-based themes.
What else... *rummaging*

CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY - greeks, romans, Trojans, Spartans, gods, goddesses, mythical archetypes, how the myths were woven into contemporary societies…. Awesome! Looking forward to this one so much.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORLD - Because I’ve heard so much about this as a book. Will get into some of the detail that BIG HISTORY had to gloss over.

Every course at GreatCourses goes on significant sale at some point each year so don't gasp at the regular prices. Just will come round on sale soon. I don't think I paid more than $60 for any one of the above. That makes my my year's worth of learning excellent value as well as easily managable.
The knowledge has already come in handy in two of my books, for background or interesting historical aspects to settings or character enriching.
And I'm loving expanding my mind externally as well as internally. When I'm done there'll be nothing I don't  know. Nothing! Bwahaahahaaa *maniacal laugh*
Go ahead...ask me anything :)


  1. Nikki, your plan is such an inspiration. I love learning new things you're right, it's like a drug. I listened to some of the science podcasts at iTunes U (free) and keep meaning to go back. Now you've given me the nudge to get more!

  2. OMG, Nikki, I have never heard of GreatCourses, but after hitting the link you provided I now think I'm in love! There are things here I HAVE to do. Like "The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness" and "Life Lessons From Great Myths" and "The History of the English Language" and loads of other stuff.

    Ask you anything, huh? :-) How precisely do you fit it all in?

  3. Nikki, those courses sound AMAZING! I wish I had the time to squeeze a couple in. Bet your story ideas will explode!!

  4. Nikki, isn't it amazing how much a little 'outside' influence benefits us. I was just thinking of a couple of scenes in my latest ms that owed so much to a chance-seen TV show that just happened to be set in the part of Italy I was using as my inspiration. That's not why I watched it as I hadn't worked out the details at that time.

    I love the idea of doing mini courses on a whole range of different subjects. A great way to keep the mind active!

  5. I've followed you DownUnder ladies for a while now. I don't usually comment. I'm a retiree in CT, USA and a voracious reader. I follow some of you ladies Individually.

    I loved the ANZAC cookie blog and the comments on it. Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the states and I noticed in the NZ Herald the story of the 32 Bomber Command chaps going to the UK.

  6. I love this idea! Now, how to fit it in to my life??!

  7. Learning - such a wonderful thing. Did you know Socrates said that we are always a student - we always learn something during our lives. the courses you are taking sound great, Nikki. Though when do you find the time?!!

    Have fun!!!

  8. Rachel - oh.... iTunesU.... even MORE learning!! Mmmmmmm....

    Michelle - I multi skill. They're mostly 30 minute lectures and so perfect for walking the dogs or cleaning the house or driving to the day job. The blogging part takes a bit longer and if I don't write it down immediately I forget the bits I found so fascinating :) But 30 mins is totally doable while doing other things. Cooking. hanging out the washing. gardening. Thank goodness for iPod apps.

  9. Robyn - there are some things I can't do while listening (basically things taht use the same bits of my brain) but I'm finding listening and walking really easy. And a good way to get myself walking more.

    Annie - Plus I'm jsut a bit horrified at how much I DON'T know about....stuff. And how much more I must not know :)

  10. Welcome Mikey2CT - so lovely to see you here. And happy belated Memorial Day :) An older friend of mine is working hard to get to Gallipolli for the 2015 centenary memorial by baking and selling Anzac cookies. They were pretty terrible at first but he's perfecting the art and now I'm a customer.

    It's a slow way to get there but I'm MORE than happy to eat my share to help him :)

  11. Kez and Eleni - bwahahaaa. Two of the busiest ladies I know asking me where i find the time...

    It's like writing. I make the time. Just find something (or somethings) that you do for half an hour and do this as well. I admit I seldom sit on the couch and just listen to one. That feels indulgent. But listening while doing something else... that just feels smart.

    (Deluded, I know...)

  12. Mikey2ct - great to meet you! I loved the ANZAC cookie blog too (almost as much as I love ANZAC cookies!).