The Importance of Continual Learning

Writing is a singular activity. It’s a solitary obsession. Sitting down to write a story or an article or a novel is not a team sport. The writer, like any artist, takes what I call are the little poofs of inspiration out of his mind, tempers and tests and does the fandango with it, before finally placing the art in a spot where others can see and experience.

We writers feel an inexplicable urgency to get the words out, sometimes with success, others not at all. Sometimes the work is solid, but needs a gentle, guiding hand. Other times, it needs a cattle prod and a machete.

Just because writing is singular doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. In fact, writing is such an encompassing task, I would recommend not flying solo. Since writing can be such a lonely business, it’s important to reach out for help in honing your craft. Even if you have an advanced degree in literature (I don’t), there is an importance in constantly learning.

I am not so full of myself that I believe my stories spring from my subconscious ready for an agent and a three-book deal.

It’s helpful to network with other writers. Some might even offer help by way of beta reading or critique. (Writers are busy and I wouldn’t ask; but if someone offers, I’ll probably take them up.) Even if they don’t offer personal critique, the writers I know have offered me a wealth of information on the skill of writing.

The fledgling writer should seek out classroom situations, whether traditional or not. There are always places where you can take classes, like colleges and even some community ed programs. But even if you have no time (like me) for a regular class room schedule, join a local writers group or an association where members will offer critique.

If you can’t make it to a class room, there’s a wealth of information online. Online classes offer the freedom of working at your own pace, while keeping you on a schedule that’s easy to manage. Thanks to the local president of the RWA who turned me on to the site, I joined Savvy Authors. Savvy Authors is one useful web site, featuring articles, contest leads, and classes and workshops. I’ve been in the Donald Maass’s The Breakout Novelist Workbook Workshop since the beginning of the year. I’ve had the book and the workbook for ages; it took the online class to provide the impetus to actually do the exercises. There’s plenty of critique and ideas, coming from writers from all over the globe.

In the past, I’ve also taken Jeremy Shipp’s classes online (Twitter @JeremyCShipp), and I would highly recommend taking it. So, I don’t write in his genre (mystery/fantasy/horror), but I’ve successfully applied his exercises to what I was writing, so successfully that I’ve used my exercises to spawn bits of other stories. I also enjoyed the class so much, I took it twice.

The amount of information out there is staggering. No matter where you turn for guidance, no matter which classes or workshops you take, there is always a value in education. As writers, we alone shoulder the responsibility for our growth and advancement.

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