Dear Writer: Keep Learning

I was recently in an online discussion concerning a new presenter in the MasterClass series. There were several people who were excited about the new presenter, but wondered if the curriculum they would have access too would be too fundamental for their current level. It’s a valid question, in particular when it comes to a class that will require a $90.00 commitment.

About the same time, I attended a training where a psychology professor talked about progression, improvement and learning. He discussed three areas that have to work in harmony with each other for learning to really have an impact: cognitive, behavioral, and affective. While I could try and explain what each of those mean, it is easier to simply ask the questions he asked us:

  • What do I know about ________?
  • What do I do about ________?
  • How do I feel about ________?

As this is a post about writing, let’s break it down with some writing ideas. Ask the same three questions and substitute one of the following:

  • Character development
  • A particular character (especially if feedback indicates that character is weak)
  • Pacing
  • Sentence structure
  • Setting/World Building
  • Internal Arcs
  • Emotional Arcs
  • Fill in the blank with the ominous part of writing that you love to hate.

Doing this practice will give us a baseline of things to consider. I don’t recommend focusing on this too deeply while in the midst of drafting – deep analysis and intentional creation can make a brain go nuts. But, if you are an outliner, this kind of practice could work well before starting. If you lean more in the write as I go, figure it out later camp, this is the kind of consideration that works well before launching into an edit.

And in the interim? Well, ask the next series of questions.

  • What do I want to know about ________?
  • What do I want to do about ________?
  • How do I want to feel about _______?

The nature of some of these questions may also take you into the authorial parts of being a writer accompanying the ideas about craft. In addition to the writing ideas listed above, consider the following:

  • Book swag
  • Marketing
  • Building an author website
  • Pitching a conference class/panel
  • Entering contests
  • Writing a synopsis/pitch/query letter/blurb
  • Guest posting
  • Book events

At this point, most writers are able to break down where they are strong and where they need some help. Essentially, we are able to place our knowledge and awareness on various places within the four stages of developing a skill.

conscious-incompetence-square-gws-opt

(Image credit: Noel Burch & GWS Media graphic redesign.)

And this brings me back to the original paragraph in this post. Are we ever at the point where taking a class wherein basic writing skills are taught wouldn’t be beneficial? Well, that depends on individual answers to the following questions:

  • Relative to what I knew about ________, what do I know now?
  • Relative to what I was doing, how do I do/create/engage with ______________ now?
  • Relative to what I felt about __________, how do I feel now?

Sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic presents a new way to think about something that has alluded us for a while. And sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic is that we get to really see how we have grown. Words on the page is great for lots of things, but taking time to reflect and understand what we have learned needs to have it’s place as well.

adequate progress.png

There are several ways that writers can continue to learn, whether through reading blogs like this one, books about craft and creativity, online courses like MasterClass, or workshops. The key is to keep learning and to continue reaching.

Because, as we have heard, just because a writer figures out how to write one book doesn’t mean the knowledge transfers seamlessly to subsequent efforts.

What have you done to continue to grow as a writer? How do you like to recognize your growth? 

_________________________________

Tasha Headshot Color

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. A co-founder of Thinking Through Our Fingers, she is the managing editor of the writing-focused website as well as a contributor to Writers in the Storm. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

2 thoughts on “Dear Writer: Keep Learning

  1. Okay, just getting to this in my inbox. Spot on! When I started the James Patterson class I had the same thoughts and then I realized an award-winning author I looked up to was taking the class. Humbling moment of self-realization. You always learn when you sit at the feet of the masters.

    Liked by 2 people

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