Creating things is messy. Even for tidy, organized people with an iron fist of control, the act of making something new is usually anything by tidy. That’s certainly true for me.

I was thinking of my process a couple weeks back as I prepared for my last Sunday school class. I teach adult classes, always a 60 minute session. The topics vary greatly, but they all have the same starting place (the Scriptures). And I tend to use Keynote to present the information each time, so there is a regular rhythm to how I prepare to teach.

But it sure feels messy when you're in the thick of it.


My preparation usually starts with a core idea. From there, I usually end up reading. Books, sermons, web articles. My concordance. I take notes and jot down quotes.

After taking the time to research, I sit down to start bringing everything together. And this is where things feel the most chaotic, with distinct bits of related information floating around in my head while I try to bring everything together to make a point and communicate effectively.

I start by writing a rough outline in Ulysses. All my notes and reference material are written here anyway. But I start creating this rough outline with a vague sense of an end goal, while being sensitive to the fact things could change. As I begin writing, things begin to take shape. I write a little. I pace a lot. I meditate on the idea(s) I’m working on. I refer back to the books and resources I used, reading as I pace. I write a little more.

This continues until I have a fleshed out plan of what I’m going to talk about. “Fleshed out” varies greatly though: sometimes it can be 200 words, sometimes 1,500. It just depends on the topic and how much homework was required. It also depends on how familiar I am with the topic and comfortable I am talking about it. The more familiar I am, the less I feel the need to write things down.


After this, in the week leading up to my class, I move to Keynote. I usually design my own themes for each session I teach, so when I’m to the point of preparing a class, I open up the new theme and start with a title slide (because there’s nothing worse than fiddling with styles when you’re intending to focus on your content). From there, I add slides in accordance with my outline.

Most slides have minimal text (although quotes and Scripture passages can be longer). But where most of the content goes in my Keynote file is the presenter notes. That’s where I put most of my thoughts I want to talk about.

The process is a little different than writing the outline, but shares many similarities. I will still pace about, meditating on a specific point. Shawn Blanc shared how he used index cards to build The Focus Course. My Keynote slides are similar for me. They’re the building blocks of my talk and an extension of the outline that started in Ulysses.

Hopefully, it all comes together to communicate the intended idea in an orderly fashion. But in the midst of it, things sure feel any but orderly.