Tuesday, August 21, 2012 | By: HiDee

Learning is a Treasure

"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."
- Chinese Proverb

The back-to-school hype energizes me. There are new clothing styles, new backpack styles, and new color schemes and items for students to decorate their abodes. Companies come out with all sorts of new gadgets and gizmos for students. Office supply stores offer great deals on things writers love: pens, paper, filing supplies, colored index cards, and post-it notes, to name a few.

There’s more to the back-to-school hype than just material things. For me, the hype conjures up renewed excitement for learning. When I was younger, I wanted to be a professional student. Good grades came easy to me and I didn’t have to study hard. Alright, I lied - math and chemistry kicked my butt. Story problems? I could cheerfully strangle whoever came up with that idea! But overall, I loved school. I loved learning.

As a writer, I’m privileged to continue my education every day: reading, writing, editing, and rewriting. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. I’m not sure a writer ever stops learning.

Every writer is different, but basics like characterization, setting, plot, conflict, and point of view don’t change. They are all intrinsic to fiction.

Optional Learning Methods

Learning by doing goes along with being a pantser. I have more writing reference books than I’ll ever read cover to cover, but I often refer to them when I’m struggling with any one area of writing. The benefit to checking more than one reference is the gist of each explanation may be the same, but each book offers a different angle from which to approach the problem. Since not every writer is the same, one explanation may make more sense than another.

Writing exercises allow us to step away from what we are writing, to free our minds and let our creativity flow. Many reference books suggest writing exercises pertinent to the subject discussed.

Workshops and classes are great resources for writers. Various organizations offer courses on just about any subject you want to know more about.

Read voraciously. Take notes when you read. What did the author do that you liked? What did the author do that you disliked?  Study how the author engaged you in the story.

Try rewriting a scene from an alternative point of view. Which character has the most to gain or lose?  Sometimes writing from an alternate point of view reveals something about our character we didn’t know.

Setting can be a character in itself. Don’t be afraid to use local color to populate your setting.  What crops or animals are common to your setting? What festivals or celebrations are held? How can you incorporate these things into your manuscript to make it more realistic?

Be a sponge and soak up as much as you can. Learn from each experience you have. You never know what you might discover!

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder. 
- Ralph W. Sockman

As I continue my education this fall, my writing curriculum includes reading for craft, rewriting to improve characterization and setting, and to increase conflict. Overall, I plan to tighten my prose.

How will you continue your writing education?


Rebecca C. Wright said...

Great post HiDee:)

I just started a new writing schedule. For me learning new ways to get my butt in the chair and get some words on paper will be my biggest accomplishment.

HiDee said...

Hi Rebecca. I can relate to that too. It's too easy sometimes to let distractions get in the way of writing. Good luck with the new writing schedule!