Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Never Stop Learning

by Annette Dashofy

My mother has never been able to figure it out. When I was in school, I was a lazy student. Hated to study. Did my homework on the bus. Made decent grades, but never really worked at it. However, once I graduated and started taking various assorted oddball classes and courses, I suddenly became an honor student. Emergency medical training? I aced it. Adult education computer classes from the community college? 4.0 GPA.

I love workshops and online classes. I adore writing conferences and retreats. Decades after my “formal” education ended, I could happily be a fulltime professional student.

Education is wasted on the young. Or at least it was in my case.

Anyhow, since we’re talking about writing advice, my point is this: never stop learning.

I really believe the more we know, the more we have to learn. When I started writing, I thought it was easy. Okay, you may stop laughing now. I figured out how wrong I was in very short order. Since then, I can’t begin to count how many writing courses and workshops I’ve taken.

And I still have sooo much to learn. That’s why I’ll be trekking to our local Sisters in Crime writers’ retreat this weekend. Trekking? From the looks of the forecast, I may be canoeing in. I don’t care. I’ll be there with pen and notepad and laptop ready to soak in everything I possibly can.

So my advice is to find a writing course or workshop and sign up. There are some really good ones online that won’t break your budget.

(I should mention, I’m currently dealing with an online course curse, but that’s a subject for another blog.)

Look for a writers’ conference. The 2010 Pennwriters Conference is only a few short months away and it’s one of the best. I can say that this year, because unlike last year, I’m not coordinating it. Mwahaha.

And read. I know Gina already mentioned that on Monday, and I totally agree with her. But for the purpose of this blog, I mean read books on craft. There are some great ones out there that cover all aspects of the process.

No matter where you are in your writing career, there’s always something else to learn. Go for it!


Gina said...


Annette said...

Ahhh, Gina. Another lifelong student. I know I'm singing to the choir where you're concerned.

Joyce said...

I definitely agree. I love learning new things, whether it's something to do with writing, or something totally unrelated. I figure anything I learn can end up in a book, an article, or a short story. And sometimes, it's just plain fun!

PatRemick said...

Thanks for the great reminder!
I agree -- especially as I write those tuition checks -- education IS wasted on the young!!

Jennie Bentley said...

Absolutely, the more you know. And you never know when an esoteric bit of knowledge will come in handy - and make you sound brilliant. :-)

Laurie said...

How true, Annette! I too love to learn new things. At the end of each day, I feel that it's been a good one, if I learned something new.

Dana King said...

I understand completely. I did enough to get by in school. In college, a friend used to bet me dinner each semester, who had the best GPA. I'd always be ahead at mid-term; she's always win. When she asked why I tapered off at the end of each semester, my usual answer was, "I'd learned all I cared to know about economics [political science, post-civil war history. etc]."

There are, I think two differences. One is learning the value of knowing things you might not need every day as we grow older. We can all think of things we learned years ago and didn;lt think much of, coming back to rescue us in later life.

The other is the opportunity to learn when we want to learn, not what has been decided is important by someone else. I'm not knocking schools for this; kids need the basic skills, and guidance and exposure to a wide range of things so they'll know what they like, and are good at.

Reading's a good example. My daughter's a college freshman. if I asked her what kinds of books she likes, she'd have a hard time answering, because she's too busy reading for school to read for fun. Once she's part the worst of that, her own tastes can develop, and she'll seek out what she's most drawn to, and learn more about it.

nancy martin said...

The more books I write, the more I realize how much I still have to learn!

Have a great time at the retreat, everyone. Take your rubber boots!

Annette said...

Nancy, I'm thinking of throwing our canoe on the roof of my car.

Dana, I think you've hit on it. I only got excited about learning once I'd been given the opportunity to choose what I wanted to learn about.

Laurie, I agree. If you learn one thing during the course of the day, that day was not wasted.

Jennie and Joyce, so true. The oddest things we learn tend to come in handy when we least expect it.

Pat, in the long run, those tuition checks will be well worth it. At least, we can hope...

Joyce said...

Those tuition checks were certainly painful, but in the end, they were worth it.

But it is nice to have that extra cash every month now!

VR Barkowski said...

As writers we hopefully never stop honing our craft, and as a former teacher, I am an undying advocate of continuing education, HOWEVER, make sure you participate in courses and workshops that correspond to the level at which you are working. A course that is too rudimentary can take your voice and stomp all over it, assuming you are breaking rules because you know no better. Choose your classes carefully, but choose them! And never, ever stop reading — all genres.

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome advice! I loved university and I love taking courses for my work (teacher). I do online research for my job too.

And then I do the same for my writing. Being a professional student would be fun :)

Carolynn Carey said...

I'm touched by your blog, Kate. Isn't it amazing how things work out sometimes? But you're so right about never giving up. Thanks for your wonderful tips.